Unplanned River Challenge


“The river tries to make you fluid; you have to be prepared to adjust your plans at a moment’s notice.” – Kevin Hoskins, Recreation Ranger, part time Nature Guru

Monday May 8th marked the beginning of my first River Patrol.  I had already completed my first week as a recreation intern with the Baker City BLM field office, sitting through various meetings, training videos, and signing the appropriate paperwork.  I put up an electric cattle gate, internally screamed as my supervisor Brian drove us up a narrow mountain dirt road, and let out a steady flow of curses as I attempted to back up a trailer, with my other supervisor, Kevin, chuckling at my consternation.

Now we were on week two, and the Baker Rec team was going to float on the Grande Rhonde River with two Forest Service workers, Terry and Celina.  Terry, the Forest Service’s invasive plants guy, would focus on spraying weeds while the rest of us would focus on making the campsites look as untouched as possible.  With the forecast predicting temperatures in the 70s and hardly any clouds, it had all the makings of fantastic first trip.  There was only small detail that made me nervous: the bathroom situation.
Getting the boats ready for launch.

You see, solid human waste in large quantities is harmful to rivers, as well as a potential health risk.  Digging a hole in the woods isn’t good enough because the waste could still find its way into the river and also leaves a clear sign that people occupied the campsite previously.  The only way you can properly use the facilities while on the river, then, is if you have some way to pack it out.

Translation: my coworkers and I would be pooping in a bucket for the next three days.

Maybe I can hold it, I thought in a moment of panic-stricken horror.  To my mind, pampered as I was by a lifetime of indoor plumbing, this restroom requirement was madness.  Everyone else, however, seemed fine with the idea of having to evacuate their bowels into a five-gallon plastic bucket, where it would remain until we reached the next toilet some 40 miles downriver.  Not wanting to make a fuss, I put a smile on my face, a life jacket on my chest, stepped into the boat and silently regretted the amount of fruit I brought.

The floating began without a hitch, and we were able to make a couple of productive stops.  All the while, the dreaded toilet bucket sat nestled in the back of the BLM Rec boat, gleaming with a menacing whiteness that I swore was more than just the sun’s reflection.
Kevin (left) and Brian checking for aluminum in a campfire, with Celina looking on.

On that first day, we set up camp just a few miles downriver.  In an unrushed yet steady flow of activity, everyone set up their tents and the cooking station.  In the meantime, Terry took the dreaded implement just out of sight of the tents and set up our commode.  I started to sweat as I realized that the full day’s work, combined with my high-fiber food choices was beginning to work its magic.  I reached my breaking point, and, with a great amount of fear and trembling, I approached the bucket.

There it was.  Set up in a small copse outside of camp, it almost looked harmless.  Almost.  I knew of the vileness within, but there was nothing to do – I could tell my lower intestine was going to clear itself one way or another.  I took a deep breath and did my duty as a river ranger: I used the bucket.
The dreaded commode.

I was shocked and relieved to find that the experience was perfectly pleasant.  The seat was relatively comfortable, and there were no unseemly smells or sights in the bucket.  We were using potting soil to cover our leavings, and I would say it was an unqualified success.  I almost did a happy little wiggle while on the bucket, but, fearful of tipping over, I settled for a satisfied sigh.  I finished up, used some hand sanitizer, and returned to camp for dinner.

From that point on I looked at the bucket in a new light.  It was no longer something to be feared, but an awkward yet reliable friend.  I could focus on scarifying campsites and trying to spot wildlife from our boat instead of worrying about my fiber intake.
Work isn’t so bad when this is your view.

The rest of the trip continued without trouble or worry.  It’s difficult to be concerned when you get paid to float lazily down a river in great weather.  The bucket continued to play an integral part of the float, and I actually began to enjoy my quiet moments with it.  There is something calming about sitting on a bucket with the late day’s sun shining through the leaves and the river gurgling along nearby.  I still prefer indoor plumbing to be sure, but I now have a soft spot for the toilet bucket.

-Michael Messina, Baker City Field Office, BLM

It’s All in the Tires

Every day in the field is an adventure. I do my best to be prepared, to take precautions, and to not take needless risks. Most of the time I work by myself, so if anything happens I’m on my own to figure out a solution. I have a truck full of supplies and gear, but I’m still just one person – there’s only so much I can do. For example, I can’t pull a truck out of a mud pit by myself.

“Oh, did you get stuck in a mud pit?”

Yes. Yes I did.

Normally I drive an F350 4×4 with super-duty tires. It’s a big truck, and I’ve skidded it sideways through several long, deep muddy pools on old forest roads with towering Ponderosa Pines crowding in on either side of me. It handles like a boss. As long as one tire was gripping, I’ve been fine. I thought I had mastered mud.


Yay truck!

But I don’t always get to drive the F350. It had to go in the shop for maintenance, so I had to scrounge for an extra truck in the vehicle pool. I got an F150  – it had all-wheel drive, it was cleared for off-road field work; a little closer to the ground, but that’s ok. I didn’t think too hard about taking out to my seed collecting site on Camp Creek.

The thing about the Camp Creek location is that it’s part of a grazing allotment. Grazing allotments have well pumps to shunt water to cattle tanks all over the parcel. The little road that I needed to get on has such a pump, but it leaks. The leak is bad enough that the road is always muddy, and now that the cows are on the pasture it’s just a rutted, trodden wallow.

When I arrived, I walked the wallow & scouted my path: I kept two tires on dry ground & made it through just fine. I found the excess barbed wire the rancher had trimmed off the gate so the cows could access the creek & tossed it in the bed of the truck. I felt so smart: no flat tires on my watch! I flipped into low gear & eased the little truck down the steep bank & across the creek. I was so happy, I’m really getting the hang of this off-roading stuff. I did my site assessment, and made my way back to the main road.


The crossing at Camp Creek. It’s hard to judge by the photo, but the road on both banks is about a 40* incline, and there are some big, pointy rocks hiding in there. The water isn’t too deep, but you have to stay right on the track – there’s exactly enough room for the truck, but not much room for error.

Except this time when I came back, there was a herd of cows in my way. In the hour or two since I had crossed, about 30 cows decided it was time to get a drink, and they were standing around in the mud puddle where I needed to cross.


My path on dry ground is blocked by cows. The bush in the left foreground is growing out of a nick point where the drainage has carved out a deep cleft – can’t really go that way.

Ok, so there’s cows. Hm, and a bull. I don’t really want to get out & charge at the bull – the cows should move if I drive up to them, right? I started forward, trying to politely edge between the cows & the mud. My left tires were sliding into the mud, but that was ok – my right tires were on dry ground. I was doing fine.

But then I wasn’t. One of the cows got jumpy & dodged into my path. Not wanting to hit her (of course), I turned to the side. And slid totally into the mud pit – now no tires were touching dry ground, they just spun in place.

Hey, I can get out of this. I’m not that far in, I’ll just dig it out a bit & reverse it. So, I got out my shovel & started digging. I dug out the wet, sloppy clay full of cow manure. I dug dry earth with clods of dead grass & packed it under the tires as best I could. I was ankle deep in the mud, my feet were sliding around in my boots. The cows thought this most irregular. I continued this exercise for about half an hour.


It’s not every day you see something like this.

I put everything back in the truck & started it up. I put it in reverse & eased the gas, slowly rocking it until the truck moved backward. I moved! Awesome!! I’m going to get out of this mess, I was so proud! Until I slid back toward the corner of the mud pit where the drainage goes underground. The crevices are a few feet deep, and my back tires were sliding towards them. I stopped.


Another foot or so & I’d have additional problems. So close to freedom, but so far.

I got back in the truck to think. The novelty of being stuck in the mud had worn off, and I was angry. The cows were increasingly intrigued. Why couldn’t they have found some other water spot? Why did they need to stand around this muddy puddle?!?


You’re not helping, cows.

I stared at the cows. I stared at the sagebrush. I pondered how the indigenous people here peeled the bark off the sagebrush to make sandals. I had an idea: I could use the sagebrush too! I could cut the sagebrush & pack it under the tires & across the mud to get some traction! Ooh, I felt smart again!

I grabbed my pruners and leapt out of the truck, nearly hugging the first bush I tripped over. But, my pruners wouldn’t cut through the tough bark. They twisted and frayed the branches, but the damn stuff just wouldn’t cut. The cows inched closer to see what was so interesting about the sagebrush they stood in all day. One was so close she was breathing in my face. I was furious: I screamed at the pruners, I screamed at the cows. I waved my shirt at them, yelling and stomping after them. First they looked surprised, then they actually started, a little taken aback. I ran all around the truck like a manic monkey, screaming & jumping & swinging the shovel trying to make the stupid cows leave me alone. They actually turned and ran off a bit, but only when I was running directly at them. I ran at all of them in a big arc, hollering like an idiot. One of them stopped. It turned and gave me a look like it had suddenly become aware of its relative size. I was chasing the bull.

I stood still and stared down the bull, brandishing my shovel at it. He let out a low growl that shouldn’t come from an herbivore. I stood even more still, but glared at him just as intently. He eventually blinked and licked at his hoof. I backed towards the truck & got in the bed. (Sorry I don’t have pictures of this part.)

Standing in the bed of the truck I watched the cows listlessly walk off, kicking up a dust trail as they went off in search of less animated company. The bull followed them. I looked down at the toolbox, and upon opening it I found a hand saw. It was dull and rusty, the tip was broken and bent, but it was better than my pruners. I jumped down & started furiously hacking away at the sagebrush. Just then, a truck rolled along the adjoining main road. As it approached the crossing herd, I waved with both arms. Much to my chagrin the cows turned away from the road back towards me, and the truck passed by without hardly slowing. I kept sawing.

Having seemed to forget that just minutes before I had been charging them with a shovel, the cows gathered around again to watch. The bull seemed to grant me permission to cut sagebrush on my side of the truck, and he entertained himself on the other side. Once again I dug out the tires, wedging the sagebrush as deep as I could under them. I made a little bridge of sagebrush across the mud, hoping that if I could just catch one piece well enough, I’d pull myself out of there.


I tried so hard.

Sagebrush bridge constructed, I once again chased off the cows. I didn’t want them to obstruct what could be my only chance to get out of their most favorite mud puddle in the entire allotment. But, my wheels only spun in place. The sagebrush got mangled a bit and sucked down into the mud, but the tires were so slick by this point they just couldn’t grip anything. I’d been in the same spot now for two hours, self-sufficiency was no longer productive.

“Lane to Dispatch on Grizzly…” The cows wandered off almost single file, the show was over.

The desert was silent. I could hear the wind gusting over a hill, I thought I could hear it turning directions. Sometimes a bird would peep. There weren’t any bugs, just me and the sky and the muddy trickle of the broken well pump running under the truck and into the crevice.

About an hour and a half after getting in touch with Dispatch, a Forest Service crew rolled up in a giant rig with a winch. They affirmed my sagebrush bridge attempt, and affirmed how well I was stuck. One of the crew members kicked the tires.

“There’s your problem right there. Just road tires on this thing.”

With the winch hooked up they pulled me out without any difficulty, and even followed for a stretch to make sure I didn’t have any further problems with the muddy tires.

The next week I returned in my trusty F350 and its super-duty tires. I drove clear over the sagebrush, avoiding the mud altogether. There were no cows that day.

– Stefanie Lane, BLM, Prineville, OR

In search of plants

I’m getting my bearings here in central Oregon: I started at the Prineville BLM office on May 1, and after a few days of trainings and general office setup, I’ve started scouting for SOS collections by tagging along on plant monitoring trips.

The Prineville office has an herbarium specimen of Phacelia lutea var. lutea that was collected in 1985, but hadn’t been found or collected since. It was found in the Northern Basin & Range, which is my target ecoregion for this year’s SOS collection. My mentor thought this would be a great opportunity to go out with Hannah (BLM Botany Tech & former CLM intern!) to both search for this rare plant, and keep an eye out for potential SOS collection populations.

The notes on the herbarium voucher were thorough: the population was recorded within a square quarter mile on a south facing slope on the north side of Camp Creek. It seemed like a straightforward task: we had the herbarium mount as an example of the plant, thorough directions, and a relatively small swath of land to survey.

I was so excited to be following in another botanist’s footsteps: “This is it!” I thought. “This is what real botanists do! I’m a real botanist, out to find a really rare plant, maybe we’ll even find a new population of them!”

Herbarium mount of Phacelia lutea var lutea back in its original habitat, three decades later.

We drove along the gravel road up to the two-track jeep trail where we needed to cross the creek, only to discover one of the seasonal irrigation spigots was leaking to the point of creating a silty, marshy wallow completely covering the trail. Although it meant hiking an extra mile, we left the truck at the road since hiking was a better alternative to getting stuck.

After a long walk (because botanists do not walk quickly), we made it to our square quarter mile of creek where the samples had been taken years ago. We scrabbled down the loose, sandy hillside & perched on little protrusions of bank where the soil had compacted, intently scouring the slopes for these tiny plants. The largest sample taken was at most only 5cm (2.5in) across, and although it was recorded as flowering on May 8, we weren’t sure if it would be delayed this year because of the long, cold winter Oregon just received. For all we knew, we could be looking for recent sprouts that might only be 1-2cm (1/2in)!

Habitat for Phacelia lutea var. lutea. Southern exposure bank is left side of photo. Camp Creek runs through center of the valley, in this section more overland flow than an actual dedicated channel.

Coming to the end of our quarter mile section, we were starting to look at the context of our supposed habitat: “Look at the sharp bank on the south side of the creek…look at how the water flows overland, then cuts back into the channel…look at that headcut!” We began to wonder whether the banks we were sitting on were even the same banks that had been there 30 years ago. For all we knew this creek had been busy meandering, flooding, downcutting, and depositing over the years, and the sunny slope our predecessor had sat on was now buried under a broad floodplain or high above our heads where erosion forces had sheared away the soil into a flat wall.

A headcut and plunge pool just below our sloping “habitat”. Note the incision in the plunge pool already acruing. In 30 more years time, the slope I was sitting on won’t exist.

We still scrabbled along, hoping to find a plant or two that had survived or blown to a better location. We got down into the marshy floodplain and looked on either side in case it had found a new niche; we got as high as we could on the steep bank and looked into the tiny draws that formed along the top of the cliff faces. All to no avail – Phacelia lutea var. lutea does not appear to live on the southern-facing slopes of Camp Creek any longer.

This is the real reality of botany, and much conservation work. Habitat loss is almost always the top listed reason for species decline and extirpation, and P. lutea lost its habitat due to erosion. The other reality of botany is that the records we make and samples we take are invaluable time-points. Maybe if we had photos of where the botanist sat in 1985, we could compare to the current terrain. Better yet, a GPS point could have shown us whether or how far the old banks had moved. All the data we collect and notes we take might someday yield a clue to a future botanist about the conditions we see today. I’m going to think about this as I write my field notes and leave descriptions for someone else to follow. Even photos and GPS points can’t replace first-hand experience, so the more descriptive and complete information I can leave behind might make a future expedition a little more fruitful.

– Stefanie Lane, BLM, Prineville, OR


How to Catch a Curlew

Well, add another entry to my list of stories about loading up on coffee and heading out before dawn to chase birds.  This time, I had jumped at the chance to help Jay Carlisle, a researcher from Boise State University, track and capture long-billed curlews at the base of Heart Mountain, north of Cody.

Spoilers: We were successful. Meet “JT.”

Continue reading

Welcome to Oregon

Hello Folks and Welcome to Oregon!

This summer I am excited to be starting my third CLM internship working with forestry in Baker City, OR. I’m super excited to be working with forestry, as trees were the thing that I always missed most from home. 

I have been working for about a month already and while I have been doing a lot of forestry work I also have been getting a lot of important training in. Some of the training include 4-wheel drive and utv/atv training. These were fun hands on trainings as I got to take vehicles out and drive them through various terrain, including an OHV area and a sand dune. There has also been the many not as fun videos and computer trainings.

After the obligatory training was done I got to start working on forestry related stuff. Most of the stuff I am working on is related to timber sales and timber cruising. Timber cruising is a way of evaluating what is present in a timber stand and an estimate of the merchantable lumber. This can be done by establishing a number of plots within a sale unit, collecting data and then using that data to estimate for the rest of the sale unit. However, instead of doing plots we are using the 100% method. With this method we measure the diameter of every tree and the field computer that we use makes calculations for us and gives us strike trees. These strike trees get more extensive measurements including diameter, height, the number of 16 ft. merchantable logs we can cut from the tree, and the defect present in each log. The field computer then uses those numbers to estimate for the entire sale unit. This helps to make sure that our error is not too high and ensures that we do not have to go back into a sale unit to insert more plots. The data tells us the species and density which can be used to make an appraised value of the timber stand. This information is used in the sale of the stand. I got the opportunity to witness a timber sale of an already cruised stand and it was neat to see what the final result of all my work will be.

I also have had the opportunity to participate in other projects not related to forestry. The two main ones being installing a fence to assist with fire rehabilitation in a burned area and helping reflag a fuels reduction project.

I look forward to seeing what other new and different thing I get to do throughout the summer.


A few Plants from the Shoshone Field Office


Life in Idaho has been nothing but interesting, there is a unique nuance and dynamic of place here that words cant really describe. Instead, I’d like to focus on the plants I have seen in the district and provide the internet with my very own Twin Falls District informal plant list. I took out the doubles and tried to add dates and general location.  Please, enjoy this review of plants (native, exotic, and weedy) of the sagebrush steppe of Southern Idaho.

4 May 207: Jim Brown Road

Lithophragma glabrum

Collinsia parviflora

Ribes aureum

Paddelford Flat

-Frittilaria pudica

-Ranunculua glaberrimus

-Viola beckwithii

-Lomatium triternatum

-Agoseris glauca

-Microsteris gracilis

-Gymnosteris nudicaulis

-Astragalus sp. (x2)

-Crepis acuminata

-Phlox hoodi

-Alyssum desertorum

-Cymopterus terebinthinus

-Chamaebataria millefolium

-Allium acuminatum

-Purshia tridentata

-Arabis sp.

-Antennaria dimorpha

-Lithospermum ruderale

-Microseris sp.

-Balsamorrhiza sagittata

-Chorispora tenella

-Draba verna


5 May- Murphy Complex

Toxicoscordion venenosum

-Poa secunda

-Astragalus purshi

-Phlox aceuleta

-Phlox hoodi

-Machareanthera canescens

-Elymus elymoides

-Chrysothamnus viscidiflorus

Ericameria nauseosa

-Lepidium perfoliatum

-Sisymbrium altissimum

-Ceratocephala testiculata

-Epilobium ciliatum

-Crepis acuminata

-Lomatium foeniculaceum

-Castilleja angustifolia

-Astragalus astatus-inseptus

-Lomatium cous

Lepula redowski

-Erioginum ovalifolium

-Pseudoroegneria spicta

-Viola vallicola

-Artemisia tridentata ssp. wymoingensis

9 May – Preacher Bridge

Agropyron crustatum

Phlox longifolia

Astrgalus purshii

Bromas tectorum

Tetradymia canescens

Epilobim brachycarpum

Poa bulbosa

Laidlaw Park

Artemisia tridentata ssp. tridentata

Penstemon acuminata

Descroina pinata

Artemisia tripartita

Ribes aureum

Ribes cerecum

Penstemon deustus

Mimulus suxsdorfii

Chaenactis douglassi

Delphinium bicolor

Senecio integerrimus var. exaltus

Snowdrift Crater

Leymus cinereus

Viola purpurea

Dean Brown Road

Linum lewisii

Astragalus fillipes

Onobryhchis viciiflora

Chondrillo juncea


10 May Dietrich Butte

Traygopogon dubious

Onapordium vicciflorus

Lomatium dissectum


11 May Bray Lake (seed site)




Vulpia octoflora

Agropyron sibericum

Achillea millefolium

The Rim

Artemsia arbuscula

-Trifolium macrocephalum

-Erioginum sphaerocephalum

-Nothacaulis troximoides

-Haplopappus stenofalus

Erioginum thymoides

Antennaria rosea

Stipa thurberiana

Castilleja pallescens

Erioginum cespitosum

-Erigeron afinactis

-Penstemon cusickii


Bennet Hills

Lewisia rediva

Ranunculus andersonii

Hesperochiron pumilus

Populus tremuloides

Veratrum californicum

Asclepias speciosa

Ceanothus velutinus


Artemisia cana

Balsamorrhiza hookeri


Camas Praire

Camassia quamash

Wyethia helanthoides


16 May Office Mystery Plants

Polyctenium fremontii

Myosurus ristatus

Boechera retrofracta


18 May Burley

Frittilaria atropurpurea


24 May Bear Trap Williams

Oenethera caespitosa

Lupinus argentus

Sphaeralcea grossulariefolia

Layia glandulosa

Astragalus filipes

Astragalus viscidiflorus

Navarettia breweri

Phacelia hastata


30 May 2017

Calochortus nuttali

Achnatherum hymenoides

Stipa comata

Stanleya pinnata


1 June 2017 Horse Butte

Allium nevadense


5 June 2017 King Hill

Grindellia squarosa

Lomatium nudicale

Penstemon palmeri

Crepis modosensis

Bromas arvensis

Erigeron afinactis

Artemesia arbuscula

Blepharipappus scaber

Agropyron saxicola

Erioginum micranthes

Garyia spinosa

While it may seem long, this is really just the short list, Southern Idaho has more diversity than I initially imagined.  Now that you have made it this far, here are a few pictures of my personal favorites.

Gymnosteris nudicaulis

Viola beckwithiii

Balsamorrhiza sagittata

Mimulus suxsdorfii

Draba verna

Lomatium triternatum

Lewisia rediviva

Ceanothus velutinus

Asclepias speciosa

Garrya spinosa

Penstemon deustus

Penstmon cusickii

Penstemon palmeri

Linum lewisia

Allium nevadense

Stanleya pinnata

Calochortus nuttali


Frittliaria atropurpurea

Wyethia helianthoides

Ranunculus andersonii

Castilleja pallescens

Trifolium macrocephalum

Lewisia rediviva

Veratrum californicum

Lithophagrama parviflorum

Fritillaria pudica

Phlox hoodi





Enter Lander Wyoming

After driving 30 hours I finally arrived in Lander, Wyoming.  After recovering our first late night we went to see how our daily commute was going to be and explore the town a bit.  We found that our daily drive into Lander is as picturesque daily commute as one could hope for.

After exploring the town, we looked outwards to Sinks Canyon, a large public area managed by the State Park Service.  We found that the river flowing through the canyon was very high and were later informed that the annual snow pack was over 270% of normal resulting in flushed waterways all over the Lander Field Office.

A few days later we had gotten our bearings being in a western state.  We found ourselves being bombarded by (what the locals say hopefully will be) the last snow of the year.  My family back home enjoyed informing me of the 90 degree weather in Virginia while we were at maybe 20 here in Lander.  Though the snow quickly melted in Lander, the snow pack was left at 320% normal.

The increased snow pack quickly melted and the still somewhat common evening rain has left the field office very lush and many places are flowering very heavily from the usually pretty lush Sinks Canyon.

To the usually very very dry desert we are experiencing our own little super bloom in the Lander field office.  This promises to be an excellent year for seed collection, particularly for collecting those usually small populations and those less likely to produce enough seed in a normal year.  We found places covered in balsamroot (not really uncommon) and other drier places covered with evening primrose of scarlet globe-mallow.  I am very excited for the chance to collect such species and get the season really underway.

  I hope every CLM intern is having as much fun and beneficial experience as I am.  Hope everyone has a great summer.  Thanks.

Chris, Bureau for Land Management, Lander Field Office

Local Adaptation in Widespread Species

Common garden experiments, a type of study in which individuals from distinct populations of a species are grown side-by-side, have provided a great deal of evidence to support the position that populations adapt their phenology and resource allocation strategy to local conditions. Environmental conditions that may vary across a species’ range include average annual temperature, minimum and maximum temperatures, timing and amount of precipitation, ratio of precipitation to evaporative losses, associated plants and animals, and soil characteristics. Some aspects of phenology and resource allocation strategies that may evolve include timing of germination, flowering, fruiting, or senescing, number of flowers, seed number and mass, and ratio of aboveground to belowground biomass. Adaptation to a given set of conditions may hinder survival under a different set of conditions, hence the need to collect and make available to restorationists seed from a wide variety of locally adapted populations of a given species.


[Lewisia rediviva, the bitterroot]

The bitterroot, Lewisia rediviva, offers a good case study of a plant that lives in widely separated areas which receive precipitation in very different amounts and at very different times. While the plant is reported from all western states and British Columbia and Alberta, I’ll make a short study of only three reported populations (Coconino co., AZ, Humboldt co., NV, San Joaquin co., CA) that experience a range of conditions across the southwestern United States. The Arizona population, reported from near the south rim of the Grand Canyon, receives roughly 16 inches of rain per year spread over a winter and a late summer rainy season. The Nevada population, reported from near Winnemucca in Humboldt Co., receives roughly 8 inches of rain per year, almost entirely in the winter. The California population, reported from northeast of Stockton in San Joaquin co., receives roughly 14 inches of rain per year, almost entirely in the winter. While it does not appear that any common-garden studies of this species have been conducted, it does seems unlikely that an individual from a population that is adapted to high rainfall (i.e. an individual from the south rim of the Grand Canyon) would prosper under the much more arid conditions around Winnemucca, NV. In the same vein, an individual transplanted from San Joaquin co., CA, which lacks a summer monsoon, might not prosper when planted among the south rim population due to a lack of adaptation to the local timing of rainfall.

[L. rediviva on high, dry ridge – the small white forms in the center are Lewisia flowers]

Fun With Forbs

Upon Arriving at my CLM Seeds of Success mentorship location in Rawlins, Wyoming, all I could see was sagebrush. Fat ones, skinny ones, low ones, tall ones- but all sagebrush. My thoughts were- “What forbs could I possibly find in this environment?” and “Gee, what a monotone, diversity-lacking ecosystem.”

After the first week of getting trained and acquainted with the field office, these thoughts quickly dissipated from my mind. Our Seeds of Success crew, consisting of me, my coworker Kyle, and mentors Frank and Ray, would set out on daily adventures in the field. Each day would (and continues to) hold exciting botanical explorations. Fields of yellow (Lomatium foeniculaceum), orange (Sphaeralcea coccinea), and purple (Astragalus spatulatus) would greet us with a warm embrace.

Sphaeralcea coccinea, Scarlet Globemallow. Found near the Adobe Town Wilderness Study Area

Cymopterus bulbosus, Bulbous Springparsley. Found in the Red Desert area.

Oenothera, Evening Primrose.

Finding these pops of color is something that I look forward to every day. When I think back to my initial feelings regarding this high desert ecosystem, I realize how wrong I actually was. Because this environment is so extreme, it harbors a great diversity of plants who have evolved to withstand its intensity. Knowing that these perennial plants go from highs of 100 degrees in the summers to lows of almost 40 degrees below zero in the winters, cultivates a feeling of respect and admiration.

In addition to the plants, I have also been exposed to the great diversity of landscapes and ecosystem types in the Rawlins Field Office District. We have focused most of our time in an area known as the “Red Desert.” Above ground there are many extremophile plants living in clay, saline soils. Below ground harbors rich deposits of oil and gas. It is because of the below ground mineral content that we spend our time in this area. One of Wyoming’s largest sources of income is energy production in the form of oil, gas or wind. With the production of this energy of course comes disturbance, and with this disturbance comes a need for reclamation. As a Seeds of Success team, we hope to gather seeds in order to assist with this reclamation process. I find that being able to see gas pads and other disturbances in a real-world setting gives me more of a drive to do what I do. Our country has a need for energy, making these disturbances nearly inevitable. At the Bureau of Land Management, it is our job to manage the land. Making sure that disturbances due to energy production are minimal and that the areas are reclaimed in order to restore habitat, are just a few modes of this management.

A “gas patch” area with several oil/gas pads in the distance.

My first month as a Conservation and Land Management Intern has treated me extremely well. Each day holds new curiosities and treasures in all types of forms. From the land itself, to the sprinkled pops of color which are extremophile forbs, and the BLM. I look forward to what the rest of the season holds.