This past week marked the second week of my internship at the Bureau of Land Management’s Buffalo Field Office in the High Plains District. As I transitioned from formal training to field work, I got a chance to experience the landscape from which this district gets its name. Heading up Route 16 into the Bighorn Mountains, though private, state, and public land was truly a beautiful commute. Myself and our Rangeland Technician were headed to collect an old pile of barbed wire on BLM land. Perhaps this doesn’t sound like the most glamorous of tasks but this is just one piece of making our public lands beautiful, clean and accessible.
Along the way to and from our site we were welcomed by one elk, five mule deer, and three moose, one male and two female. We saw this wildlife wading in wetlands and grazing in the same pastures as cattle, all taking their time grazing on the high plain grasses and shrubs. Traversing this landscape provided views of sprawling sage brush and grasslands on rolling hills with the impressive background of the snowy mountain tops. Looking into the distance at what I thought was more sage brush soon became clearer. A herd a sheep, hundreds, easily the largest I have ever seen.
Rolling the windows down to hear their greetings and say hello to the rancher herding them on an ATV, I felt shift in temperature at this altitude, noticeably cooler than in the valley. We spoke to this land owner about who we were, what we were doing here, as well as the BLM’s role and authorities on the land they manage, asking him about his own observations and suggestions.
While this half day in the field involved several hours of driving just to perform the simple task of picking up barbed wire, this experience gave me a much greater understanding of the land managed by the BLM in this area and the relationships present among humans and wildlife. Boundaries between land ownership seem clear on our maps and are important when it comes to the actions that the BLM takes. However, to the wildlife, good graze is good graze, and they’ll go wherever they can to find it.
– Buffalo Field Office, Bureau of Land Management