Greetings fellow interns,
I hope everyone had a relaxing holiday season filled with friends, family and all things pleasant. Being a California transplant, I joined my family in Iowa remotely via Skype, which was definitely a first for me, and was able to participate in their festivities. It was wonderful to be able to connect with them despite the distance. Technology is great when it works. I have been here in California for a few years now as a CLM intern in what was originally a 5 month internship. What a great experience it has been! Although I might like to stay here forever, the position I was hired to fill was only temporary, and I have always known that eventually it would be time for me to leave. Well, it seems the California vacation is finally coming to an end. I have recently accepted a full time position back in Iowa and will be leaving the Preserve on February 27, 2015 (please hold you coat, hat and glove donations- I will eventually re-acclimate).
When I first came to the Cosumnes River Preserve in May of 2012, I was living at a facility on site known as the farm center. If you are not familiar with this facility, it is an old farm house nestled in the rice fields of the Preserve. It is not a fancy place by any means, but for me it was perfect. I was living and working on the Preserve, which might burn some people out, but I couldn’t get enough. I would do land management tasks and various repairs all day, and then at night I would watch the wildlife and enjoy the evening tranquility. One morning I sat on the front steps and watched a bald eagle dive-bombing a flock of terrified coots for 30 minutes as I drank coffee before work. Where else can you do that? I was quite surprised to find a nature preserve teaming with wildlife in such close proximity to the capital city of California. That has been one of my favorite aspects of the Preserve that I am going to miss when I am gone. Visitors can drive twenty minutes from the hustle and bustle of the city and find themselves lost in the serenity (amplified serenity when the geese are present in numbers) of nature.
I have greatly enjoyed meeting and working with other CLM interns occasionally throughout my time here. It would have been nice to have another CLM intern here at my field station (Cosumnes River Preserve) full time. I hope to be able to visit the Preserve again as a non-employee after I leave. If you are ever near Sacramento, CA, I highly recommend you make it a point to swing by and check it out. Winter season (October-May) is the best time to visit; the Preserve is wintering habitat for 50,000+ birds. I know everything will keep on functioning just fine here without me, but I sure will miss this place.
Happy holidays everyone,
Hopefully you all have plans to see family or friends for the holiday season. I was home over Thanksgiving (Iowa) so I will not be returning for Christmas or New Years. Instead, I am opting to hit the slopes and hoping to avoid the typical crowds. This will be possible because we have finally gotten some PRECIPITATION IN NORTHERN CALIFORNIA. The news was predicting the “storm of the decade” and went on for days about preparing to be without electricity and stocking up on food. In the end, we had one gusty morning and then it drizzled for two days (I was unimpressed). I was, however, thankful to see the much needed rain. I think I saw about 8 rainbows in a single day.
As far as work goes, I am still chipping away diligently on my restoration projects. I have completed a draft CEQA document on my largest project, and have now begun the NEPA document. I am simultaneously writing contracts and installing infrastructure e.g. access roads and gates at the project site.
In between writing these documents, I am applying for a streambed alteration permit, a 401 permit, an endangered species act permit, and a 404 permit. I can’t eat lunch in California without getting a permit first. Having spoken to other project managers conducting large-scale restoration projects in California, I have learned that it is not uncommon for the cost of project permitting to be equal to or even more expensive than the cost of the actual project construction.
On a side note, a few months back our small staff at the Preserve constructed a barn that we had de-constructed from another BLM property in the Sierras several months earlier. We had no instructions, just pictures and a numbering system on the parts. Here is a final picture of the constructed barn (still standing after the “storm of the decade”).
Greetings fellow interns,
Another lovely California central valley winter has begun. I have really gotten used to the pleasant 60-70 degree days. It will be quite the shock returning home to the Midwest over Thanksgiving, where highs have been consistently in the 10-20 degree range. I will be packing every article of clothing I own (and hand warmers). Christmas visits are pretty much out of the question except via Skype.
I am still primarily working on permitting for a large scale restoration project I have been tasked with. This project seems to require every permit known to man (federal, state and county). I have, however, had the opportunity to work on some side projects.
Last fall, my mentor was informed that there was a machine shed style building on a parcel of land within our field office jurisdiction that was going to be torn down. It seems that the parcel had been leased for several years by an educational institution while they were conducting research in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. They had the building constructed during that time. After the lease and research had concluded the building was left in place, with no plans for removal. Due to BLM policies, the building needed to be removed prior to taking control of the property once again. As the Preserve I work for is constantly searching for space to store and protect our equipment, we saw an opportunity to prevent the unnecessary waste of a perfectly good structure and provide more much-needed storage space for our facility.
With a crew of four guys we deconstructed the entire building in two 12-hour days, loaded it on to a trailer, hauled it to the Preserve, and unloaded it into storage. This fall a new cement pad was poured at the Preserve where the new structure was to be installed, and in October of this year, we rebuilt the building. We had no instructions, and lots of pieces. Based on the pictures we took prior to deconstruction, and a numbering system we used to mark the pieces, we were able to reconstruct the shed in about 3 days. We are still waiting for new skylight panels that we had to order and a few final steps to complete the building, but for the most part the construction process went very smoothly! It was a great opportunity to learn some basic construction skills.
Greetings fellow interns,
Things are finally beginning to green up again here in the Northern California Central Valley. This has come to be one of my favorite times of the year here. Being originally from the Midwest, I am accustomed to seeing dry, dormant, dying vegetation in the fall as plants prepare for a cold hard winter, but here the fall season brings moisture and precipitation to a system that has been dry and dormant throughout the mid and late summer. It makes for a lovely green fall full of re-awakening plant life. Judging by my inability to pass air through my nasal passages, I am convinced the rejuvenated plants are also contributing to an increased pollen count. You take the good with the bad!
Many exciting things are currently happening at the Preserve. Birds have begun showing up in numbers and we are once again participating in bi-weekly waterfowl counts. Every year the Cosumnes River Preserve supports tens of thousands of migratory birds utilizing the Pacific Flyway. With the extremity of the drought over the last several years, many historically wet areas do not have water this year, and we are expecting above average bird numbers.
California Department of Fish and Wildlife is in the process of developing a mountain lion study at the Preserve. The pilot study will involve trapping and radio collaring cats to better understand how and why they are using the Preserve as habitat. Trapping is scheduled to being this winter. The cats are definitely present at the Preserve, but they are such cryptic animals that their life histories here are quite mysterious. I am very eager to read up on the findings of this study.
The Preserve is also working on the development of a partnership with the Center for Land Based Learning through their Student and Landowner Education and Watershed Stewardship (SLEWS) Habitat Restoration Program. This program gets California school students directly involved in native habitat restoration projects through hands-on field work days at various sites throughout the Sacramento Valley. As a significant portion of my responsibilities at the Preserve include managing habitat restoration projects, I think this will be an excellent opportunity to expand our projects while educating students and having a good time!
Lucky for me, I have also had the opportunity to participate in a few SOS seed collections throughout the late summer and early fall months. I love being able to get out in the field to explore, monitor plant populations, and collect seed! I was also joined by fellow SOS intern Julie Wynia, and it is always great to be able to socialize and collect with other folks from the CLM program. We reached our 2014 BLM collection targets for the Mother Lode Field Office, and have already begun collecting for the 2015 fiscal year. Hope your fall season has been going equally as enjoyably as mine has-
This will be my third winter here in the California Central Valley and so far I have yet to experience any significant precipitation. California is in a serious drought, and currently there is no end in sight. Climatologists are predicting another winter of less than average precipitation. Conditions (for both plants and humans alike) are continuing to become more and more extreme, but it seems everywhere I look people are FAILING to acknowledge the gravity of the situation. The ignorance and apathy I encounter every day in regards to these conditions is alarming. I see irrigation systems running to irrigate non-native turf lawns ALL OVER TOWN, and, during mid day I might add. I see excess runoff from irrigation systems and car washes running down the the street drainage for blocks and blocks. I see people watering on days that are not allowed per the drought water restriction plan in effect throughout the city. My own landlord was trying to tell me that I “had to” flood irrigate the lawn to keep the grass green “in accordance with the neighborhood”. Seriously?!?????? It wasn’t until I cited city ordinances outlining the city-wide water use restrictions in effect, and called his attention to the fact that flood irrigation was currently a FINE-ABLE OFFENSE, that he finally stopped making lease violation threats. What I’m wondering is, what is it going to take for people to realize that fresh water is a limited resource in the California ecosystem? Honestly, I will probably not stick around long enough to find out. Water reserves here are dwindling at an alarming rate with no predictions of recharge.
There are many cities throughout the state that are quickly running out of water (http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2014/08/02/cities-running-out-of-water/13443393). In some cases, wells have been pumped dry and small communities have been forced to either pay absurd costs to have water trucked in, or relocate. In a state like California with a 42.6 billion dollar agricultural industry (cdfa.ca.gov), you better believe that this water crisis is eventually going to be felt across the country. Perhaps you have already been paying more for your produce; maybe even doing so unknowingly.
In my SOS collections this year I have noticed several large populations that have produced lots of seeds in years past have produced little to none this past season. Could this be coincidental? I doubt it. Many of these native species have evolved genetically to be drought resistant, but even still show signs of stress in such extreme cases. Part of my position at the Cosumnes River Preserve is managing restoration projects. When native plants are installed for re-vegetation, drip irrigation is required in summer months for 2-3 years during the plant establishment period. With water rights here continuing to tighten and the Department of Water Resources auditing every ounce of water pumped from the rivers and streams, I am concerned that the water we use for habitat restoration at the Preserve is eventually going to be reduced, or cut off. People need water, our agricultural crops need water, and our environment needs water. With a finite amount of water in the Western ecosystem, management is critical. Would you be willing to spend more money on your groceries if you knew that by doing so water was being allocated to habitat conservation projects in California?
Hello fellow interns,
It is time to blog again. However, I don’t have much new news to report. I am still up to my neck in permits with deadlines quickly approaching. First and foremost, I am trying to finish a draft of a CEQA document to begin construction on the giant garter snake restoration project I am working on.
I recently took a leave of absence as I am also employed separately as a wildland firefighter. The handcrew I work on was assigned to small fire in the El Dorado National Forest later named the “Twin” fire. Access to the fire was a grueling trail that ascended 2200 feet in about 2 miles distance. We hiked in to this location and out every day for two days until the fire was completely contained and extinguished. After securing this fire we moved on to the Bald fire east of Redding. This fire ended up consuming nearly 40,000 acres and took several days to complete our portion of the line.
I returned to the Preserve and was immediately tasked with helping to prepare several or our wetland ponds for a methyl mercury study that is scheduled to begin here in less than two weeks. I am splitting my time between backhoe work in the morning and writing the Bjelland CEQA in the afternoons.
Hope everyone has been enjoying their summer internships!
Since my last blog not much has changed as far as my day-to-day tasks. I am still typing away on a NEPA document for a giant garter snake restoration project I am working on. I am currently in the process of selecting a contractor to conduct baseline surveys at the restoration site as well. This information will help with my decision making process as construction activities are carried out, as well as determine the success of the project after the restoration is complete.
I did get one short break from the office for a seed collection a couple weeks ago. Two interns (one SOS, one BLM) from the Mother Lode Field Office came to my field station for a day of plant ID and seed collection. We found several populations of plants we were searching for, that should have been ready (or close to being ready) for seed collection. What we did not find was seeds. Perhaps this is an effect of the drought? Either way we were still able to collect seed from one population (Cyperus eragrostis), so our efforts were not in vain.
Hopefully I will have future opportunities for more collections. In the mean time I am just going to be trying to pump out these documents.
Stay safe in the field-
Not much is new with me. I recently took some time off to pursue other interests (wildland fire related), but now I am back at it at the Cosumnes River Preserve. I am still working on a NEPA/CEQA combination document for a restoration project I am responsible for. We are creating habitat for the endangered (federally and state listed) California Central Valley-endemic giant garter snake. These permits are incredibly tedious and time consuming documents to write. Did I mention how massive they are? Use your imagination. You might think that projects designed to benefit native plant and animal species (restorations) would require less federal and state permits than say, (evil) development projects. This is not the case. Both types of projects require permits galore, and from a permit standpoint, both are fairly similar. Every permit requires its own unique vocabulary. Tomato, tomato- right? WRONG! Good times.
I enjoy when one of the other CLM interns at our field office invites me for a glorious field day of seed collection.
There is enough work to be done here right now to keep 10 full time employees busy for 60 hours a week. Instead, we have 4. Time management is crucial. It is also a necessity to be dependable and accountable. We have to be able to count on each other to do what we agree will be done. As understaffed as we are, functioning as a team is the only way we can accomplish anything.
I have been out for several days on another assignment, but because we have a good team, and because we have communicated effectively in advance, we continue to get work done. Most recently, our work has focused on weeds management. This has been a bad year for Lepidium species at the Preserve (primarily L. latifolium and L. draba). We use a combination of weed management techniques to combat these infestations including grazing, mowing, and herbicide applications. Rising temperatures and increasing fire dangers create additional constraints as to how and when we can accomplish our treatments.
Overall, we are seeing excellent results in the areas we treat. The only downside is the amount of time we have to invest in these issues to see these results. I hope I will get to participate in some seed collections this season; herbicide applications are not my favorite task. Hope you all are enjoying your spring-
Weeds season is in full force here in the central valley of California. I’ve been spending about half of my time treating huge stands of noxious invasive weeds. The other half of my time is dedicated to writing permits for a giant garter snake restoration project I am currently working on. In my “free time” I am beginning the irrigation schedule for a native plant restoration site I installed a few months ago. I am also very actively working to expand my work qualifications and certifications through various training workshops. The BLM has been instrumental in helping me to expand my skills and certs. The weather here has been fantastic lately, and I am hoping to get out on the trail this weekend for some backpacking. Hopefully you’re getting the same where ever you may be stationed!