Nearing the end

One week left. I’ve finished the main purpose for my extension, having digitized all disturbances within all of the Buffalo FO sage grouse core and connectivity. It took me quite a while, but it’s done. So now I’m just finishing up some loose ends from my previous extensions, going through old data, sorting problem range improvement files, and organizing for the next interns coming in. I was able to go see the sage grouse on their leks, which was very neat, but I think I enjoyed seeing the sharp-tailed grouse even more. They chase each other all over the place and then dance like crazy. Definitely fun to watch.

Wandering Minds

I am now in my 11th month in the Buffalo FO, Wyoming. My time here at the BLM is soon coming to a close, though I have a few projects to finish up first. My current responsibility is to use ArcGIS to digitize any type of disturbance in the BFO sage grouse core and connectivity areas. Since the Powder River Basin is a major oil and gas area, there is plenty to digitize. My work will be used by biologists to run a DDCT, a density and disturbance calculation tool. The DDCT is used to help determine where new oil and gas permits can be, so that there is not too much disturbance in any one area.

Basically, what this also means is that I am currently spending all of my time in front of the computer at work. Knowing how important this could be for sage grouse conservation helps to keep me going; however, with spring already showing signs around the field office I am starting to get a little antsy to get outside in the field. Starting next week I’ll be able to go out on some lek surveys, but in the meantime I’ve come up with some other ways to keep me motivated. This mostly comes down to remembering all the good times I’ve had at work and in Buffalo this year and reminding myself that field season is just around the corner. In celebration of this, I’ve posted some of my favorite photos from last year.

P.S. My grasp on technology is not so great, so to really see the objects in the picture well they might take some extra clicking.









Back in Buffalo

Well, it was a great two weeks at home but I admit I’m glad to be back in Buffalo, WY (though it is kind of confusing knowing there’s more snow in Indiana right now than Wyoming). I’m sure Wyoming will catch up soon so I can try my hand at some cross country skiing.

It’s mainly office work at this point in the season. We’re trying to check all the range improvement files in the online database and using GIS to make sure they are where they say they are. Other than that, we have the Midwinter Bald Eagle Survey to look forward to this weekend. Hopefully we’ll get a good number of eagles this year.

Tis the Season

One thing I have loved about this internship and field office, is that we are always getting opportunities to learn new things. In the beginning it was all about learning an entire new set of plants for our range monitoring. Since then, I’ve also attended rangeland trainings, speakers, read multiple papers, and enrolled in the GIS courses online.
The first range training focused a lot on the basics of grazing management, such as what portions of the plant can be grazed without overly affecting plant growth. We did some grass clipping activities to estimate production and the effects on the rangeland. This last rangeland training was focused on a Utah ranch’s success using very frequent pasture rotations to improve grazing and wildlife habitat. They specifically kept cows that could calve on very low quality forage, thus also reducing the ranch’s cost in hay. Meanwhile, in the office during my “spare” time I’ve been able to keep up with my reading. I’ve had some time to read articles on sage grouse, lichens, big game fence interactions, climate change in the rangelands, as well as the NEPA and ESA. Having the time to read this information has helped me so much in understanding a lot of what we do out in the field.
I really do love the Buffalo Field Office. Today is the judging of the Christmas door decorating contest, and the range staff’s door is looking pretty promising. We’ve taken some liberties with the original Twelve Days of Christmas and made it into the Twelve Field Days of Christmas, featuring a few adaptations of the original lyrics, such as “an eagle in a pine tree”. And while I’m excited to go home for Christmas, I know I will definitely be missing the white Christmas likely to be here in Buffalo.

The Twelve Field Days of Christmas

The Twelve Field Days of Christmas Buffalo Field Office Map

New projects keep on coming

Well, my first internship has officially ended, but thank goodness for extensions. Pretty much all of the range field season is over, but new projects just keep popping up left and right, so we’ve been extended here for awhile. One of our latest projects involved making sage grouse fence markers. For the record, using tin snips to cut vinyl undersill is not very effective, but a tile cutter works great. We’ll be choosing some fences near active leks to start putting these on, in hopes of preventing the extremely high mortality rate from fence collisions.
Another new project we’ve just started is the mapping of saltcedar. We are still working out the logistics, but we are hoping to get a very detailed picture of where and how much saltcedar can be found in local draws, especially around manmade resevoirs. Once we know the distribution, focused efforts to remove it can be undertaken. I’m excited for this project because walking through these draws, looking in all the nooks and crannies, is so different from surveying the rangeland. It should make for another interesting experience from Buffalo, WY.

I just took my first trip to Yellowstone and the Tetons.  The fall colors there are so amazing and different from anything I expected.  Instead of trees changing, the ground is awash with the colors of changing grasses and shrubs.  This is not to downplay the beautiful aspens, but it all comes so exciting to me, as I wasn’t expecting to get my autumn colors this year.  Unfortunately, I don’t think the aspens are going to last much longer.  Fall here in Buffalo, WY, seems to come and go quite quickly.  Many of the aspens have already dropped all their leaves, and our amazing garden was picked clean yesterday in anticipation of the three days of snow forecasted.  Goodbye Fall, hello Wyoming Winter!

Switching it up a bit.

It’s been a dry, dry year.  Our range field monitoring has officially ended now that everything is yellow.  So now its on to new projects.  We were able to continue some riparian vegetation monitoring, and will begin analyzing it for the first time when we get some free office time.  We also just finished a limber pine survey, trying to find some healthy trees that have mostly escaped the rust for use in seed collection later. Our main project now is surveying BLM fences, especially around significant wildlife areas.  We’re hoping to get a good survey of the types of fences, particularly not wildlife friendly fences so they can tagged for sage grouse, or have the sheep fence removed for pronghorn.  I’m thinking this will be able to keep us quite busy until its time for another new project.

Greetings from Buffalo!

After a roundabout trip back from Chicago we have all made it back home safe and resumed work. It’s amazing what can change after just a week being gone.  Before we left everything was still green and growing.  On our first day back in the field we quickly discovered that almost all the grasses have gone dormant, most of the forbs have stopped flowering, and everything is now yellow.

In the meantime, we have escaped to greener pastures by backpacking up to a glacier lake in the bighorns.  Up there are still flowers aplenty and being above the smoke haze was certainly a nice change.  However, it should be noted for future trips that marmots like to eat water bottles. Watch out.

The 4th of July was great.  There was still one fireworks show going on despite the fires, and it was probably the longest show I’ve ever seen…and I like fireworks.  This weekend is the Bighorn Mountain Festival, so we’re looking forward to a ton of awesome bluegrass music and a great time.

Hello All! I have now traveled from Indiana and been staying here in Buffalo, WY for the past 2 weeks. I can tell you already, I would not mind staying here for quite some time.  The town here is wonderful, full of extremely welcoming people and the area is great. Directly to the east are the high plains, vast sagebrush lands where most of my work is. Not 20 minutes to the west is the Bighorn National Forest, mountains that we have already explored a few times. I have never been in such a small town where there is also so much to do.  We enjoyed our first bluegrass jam session just the other night, and plan on many many more.

I’m working as a range intern for the Buffalo Field Office.  I’ve already started learning to identify all the many grasses here, often without seed heads which is something I have never done before.  We’ve been monitoring grazing allotments in high priority areas, particularly sage grouse primary habitat.  I admit, I hadn’t expected to be sniffing bird scat; however, I was pleasantly surprised as sage grouse scat has the same aroma as sagebrush.  We were able to get a close sighting of a sharp-tailed grouse today, so hopefully a great visual of a sage grouse will be next!