Field Excursions

This month focused on the creation of a priority species list for this season’s seed collections.  It consisted of a delicate balance between native plant communities of anticipated future reclamation needs, competition with invasive weeds, erosion control, pollinator habitat, seed market needs, and the overall needs of the Colorado Plateau Native Plant Program.  Inclement weather and completion of the priority list have been limiting factors for ventures into the field.  As the rains have receded, roads dried, and the list solidified, the desert has become more inviting to field work.  In an effort to maximize my time at the Vernal Field Office, I have expressed interest in accompanying the field excursions of a variety of specialties, including botany, paleontology, and law enforcement. Recently I took part in surveys for reported fossils as well as endemic species of yucca, cacti, and beardtongue. In addition to exploring career paths and learning BLM methodology, these field days were valuable opportunities to orient myself in the varied landscape and become familiar with the flora. As the season progresses, my time in the field will be increasing. I am about to start scouting potential seed collection sites, and will continue to pursue field excursions with multiple specialties.

Asteraceae through the loupe

Old Growth Sclerocactus alongside the next generation

Close-up of Sarcobatus vermiculatus (Greasewood)

View from the survey location of a potential gravel pit site

Native Pollination in action, this Astragalus chamaeleuce has a Bombus visitor

This herd was on a site as we surveyed it for the presence of Sclerocactus, a threatened native plant. As domesticated horses have escaped captivity or been abandoned on public land, some survive and reproduce to create feral herds. Feral horses can be detrimental to native sensitive plant species by trampling vegetation, overgrazing, and altering soil properties. Their impacts differ from native large ungulates and livestock because they aren’t limited by hunters, natural predators, or grazing permits.

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