What a Great Time

I’m all wrapped up and finished with my internship. I spent my last month preparing documents and GIS databases for the Visual Resources Inventory report for Newcastle, WY. So, I’ve been in the office a lot. It was really satisfying to see the culmination of my work over the summer in the form that it would appear in an official government report.

Our intern/seasonal house is empty. My desk is cleaned out. It’s a strange and sad feeling after my longest stint away from the city of Chicago. I’ve come home to a bit of culture shock that is more jarring than my move to Wyoming. I find myself pinned in by walls of construction and cars. I was extremely lucky to be placed in Buffalo, WY with many other seasonals/interns. Over the course of six months, our house provided a home to seven different people. We worked hard and played hard. My boss made sure that I was prepared to do the GIS work that would be required of me, despite my lack of familiarity on the software. Yet she always made sure I got to go out and did other things. Mapping sensitive species, possible seed collections, surveying possible sites of cultural value, and recreation site access and maintenance were all part of my internship experience. Definitely something I could never get in Chicago. Thanks for everything Buffalo! And thank you CBG for the opportunity.

Almost Done

It’s definitely getting colder here in Buffalo. Cold, dark, and a whole lot less crowded, as our house of six seasonals/interns dwindles down to four. The field season is coming to a close and I am ready to spend the rest of my days out here in the office and in front of a computer monitor. Completing the Visual Resource Inventory for Newcastle and working on travel management for the public will be my priorities until the end. Fortunately for me though, I still have youth outreach to do as a recreation intern. That, and I’m getting a hang of ArcMap, even with the mind-blowing (-ly slow) speed at which our government computers process information.

With this cold weather, came even more opportunities for me to discover the wonders of Wyoming. We had our first snow a couple weekends ago. My roommates and I hopped out of bed, made some snow cream, and scrambled up the mountain to frolic like children. It was the best day ever. Except, the cold weather and moisture also meant that the fire ban in the Big Horn Canyon National Recreation Area was lifted. So the following weekend, we shipped off to the northern Big Horns in Montana for some much needed roasting of marshmallows. Hopefully, I’ll be around here long enough to see enough snow to hit up some slopes on the Big Horns on a snowboard.

Outreach Rocks!

It’s been about three months since I’ve written a post. In three, quick months, I have seen and done so many things out here in northeastern Wyoming. I’ve been to every corner of the Newcastle field office (during Sturgis) while carrying out my Visual Resources Inventory work. I’ve learned all sorts of things: from riding OHV’s to ArcGIS to distinguishing between sedge species. As a recreation intern, though, my most fulfilling experiences have been through my interactions during BLM outreach. I’ve taken kids fishing, taught them orienteering skills, gotten waist deep in cold pond water to teach them about the environment of aquatic insects, and taught them how to not leave a trace while recreating on their public land. The most amazing of these experiences, by far, was helping out with the Upton Summer Discovery Program.

The BLM and the Weston County School District #7 have been teaming up since 2008 to connect these students to the great outdoors. During the two week-long sessions, with ten students each week, we camped out in the Black Hills National Forest, developed our own lessons, taught and played with bright, enthusiastic kids, and hopefully made a lasting impression and inspired some of them to explore more. I have a few more opportunities for outreach while I’m here, but for the most part, I will spend the rest of my internship in the office. All in all, I have had a great time and hope the remainder will be just as interesting.

Buffalo, WY – Nguyen (First Month)

It’s been four weeks since I left Chicago for Buffalo. The experiences I have had in these first few weeks have been a bit overwhelming. Once I overcame the initial culture shock, I found that Buffalo wasn’t at all the boring small town I thought it would be. While definitely small, both the town and the field office are full of some of the most fun-loving and kind-hearted people I have ever met. The people of Buffalo know the value of the land that they live on and take full advantage of it. Hiking in the Big Horns, camping in Middle Fork Canyon, running on the creek-side trail that runs through town or fishing out of it are only a few joys found around Buffalo. I can’t forget to mention the bluegrass Thursdays and weekends at the local BBQ joint. I have the pleasure of living with enthusiastic, career oriented, young people like myself, from whom I have much to learn.

I had never really heard of the BLM before coming to Buffalo. Coming from the flat, enclosed, and busy environment of Chicago, I could not have understood the scope and value of the land and the kind of work that the BLM does. At work I am surrounded by people who truly dedicate themselves to serving and protecting public land. I has been amazing for me to see how all these disciplines (biology, geology, archaeology, natural resources, etc.) are involved in managing land.

My particular task is to assemble a Visual Resources Inventory (VRI) for the Newcastle field office. As a biologist, I never even thought about how difficult it would be to mitigate all the visual impacts of the developments that we employ on BLM lands, not just oil fields and transmission lines, but solar and wind farms as well. In order to mitigate visual impacts on the BLM lands, an inventory of the visual values of the lands is needed. A VRI is a method of quantifying the visual values of landscapes.  The Visual Resources Inventory is used to establish Visual Resource Management classes, which are then used in the writing of resources management plans. The biologist in me hopes that there is much more planning involved in developing projects to protect the landscape that only taking visuals into account, and there definitely is. However, after attending a week-long course of Visual Resource Management, I see the necessity for taking visuals into account.

That is about it for my first month. I have been training, working with kids, getting used to living in a big house with five other BLM-ers, and more training. I have at least four more months to learn, work, and enjoy; but I am sure they will pass very quickly. Here are a few pictures of what I have seen this first month. More to come next month!

Right before my situational awareness training

Just a casual drive through on our first weekend in Buffalo

I need batteries for my SLR