Midwinter Bald Eagle Survey

This past weekend I participated in the nation-wide Midwinter Bald Eagle Survey.  During the winter many Bald Eagles migrate south from northern areas like Alaska.  The purpose of the survey is to monitor the status of Bald Eagle wintering populations.  Along with the amounts of Bald Eagles seen, supplemental data on where they were located and in what habitats they were located in were also recorded.  Across the country, non-overlapping designated routes are driven during the same time each winter.  Overall, we saw 12 bald eagles.  Unfortunately, country-wide data is not yet available.BaldEagle1 BaldEagle2 BaldEagle3

Through the first four weeks of this internship I have been constantly comparing this summer to my past summer as a CLM intern.  A little background: last summer I lived in Cedarville, CA at the Surprise Field Office (The name comes from the Surprise Valley, where Cedarville, resides).  Cedarville is an amazing place, unlike anywhere I’ve ever been before.  Coming from the Northeast, it was quite a transition.  There are about 550 people in Cedarville, and less than a thousand in the whole valley.  The closest town of any significance is Alturas (~2,500 pop.).  Other than that it was Reno, Redding, or Klamath Falls, which were about 3 hours away.  Needless to say, the area was isolated.  This was both a challenge and a reward.  The Surprise Valley really is the western experience, and if you like recreating outdoors, it was a great place as well.  Botanically, the area was very challenging for me to get used to.  Where were the trees?!? However, despite these challenges, I learned a lot about myself, living in a small ranching town, and the land management field. 

Coming back for a second year has so far proved to be a great decision.  Not only have I been able to contribute to my new field office in a way like never before (because of my past CLM internship), but I am also constantly becoming exposed to new land management challenges that were virtually nonexistent in the Surprise Field Office.  A major focus for this office is oil and gas leasing, specifically coal bed natural gas.  Because of this, the office is much bigger than I am used to (2-3 times bigger).  It also means there is a whole host of associated environmental impacts.  Although I probably won’t be directly involved with this part of the field office, I am trying to learn from others in the field office of the impacts of coal bed natural gas and its mitigation efforts.  Fossil fuels and fracking are both “hot words” in today’s media, and I hope to educate myself on the issues and educate others with this firsthand experience.

Another issue which I wasn’t exposed to last year was the fragmented ownership of the area.  Surprise Field Office, although located in California, has most of its resource area in Nevada.  Nevada’s land area is 67% BLM, and the Surprise resource area was mostly BLM.  Here surface ownership is mostly private and in many cases BLM is a minority land owner.  Therefore, many times we have to call landowners many days in advance to obtain permission to cross their land.  This adds an extra element of planning into our work.

Botanically, there are many of the same species.  Others from the West may say the areas are very different; however, coming from the East, these two areas look very similar compared to where I grew up.  It has been nice to build on this botanical knowledge.  Where last year I was overwhelmed by the amount of new species, this year I am able to take my time learning new species and identify ones I already know.

Buffalo and the surrounding area are gorgeous.  The Bighorn Mountains to the West look like an excellent playground, and the rolling hills of the basin are truly spectacular.  Although many say Buffalo is a small town (~4,500), it looks like New York City compared to Cedarville, and there always seems like there’s something to do.  I’m very lucky to be in a great place with a job I love!

As I enter my last month with the BLM, I have been thinking about all that I have learned over the last four months. I remember what a culture shock it was when I first got here; where were all the trees? However, I found that the challenge of adjusting to a new place has definitely educated me on more than just new plants. I’ve been very fortunate to be involved in the fire restoration plans of this office. Back out East, fires are usually never an issue. Also, I think it’s great that I’ve actually seen the worth of the seeds I’ve collected since they will be used in stabilization and rehabilitation after our fire. I’ve also been fortunate to learn about the role of grazing on BLM lands. Again, this is something I never experienced back east, and for the most part, the stakeholders of the land in this area are much different as well. I’m still learning every day. For example, yesterday, I learned about proper fence construction to flag areas where fences had been badly damaged due to fire. Who knows what I’ll learn next!!

Stop, drop, & roll, it’s fire season!

The past few weeks at our field office have been quite hectic and exciting. The Lost Fire scorched over 60,000 acres in our resource area, and the almost record-breaking Rush Fire snuck its way into the southern section, burning another several thousand acres. Our tiny field office has been filled with fire specialists from around the district and state office.
Once the fires were controlled, the real work started. Our field office was responsible for a Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) plan very soon after. I was able to help my mentor design a reseeding plan for the BAER. It was an incredibly valuable experience. I learned all about different aspects of fire ecology, and how BLM responds to fire. Coming from the Northeast, this was all new information and very interesting. It was also great to be a part of a team of specialists working towards a short deadline. Now we just have to collect the native seeds for these projects. Hopefully, we’ll be able to muster a volunteer team because we’re going to need a lot of seed! Get ready Bend!

Unlike many of the CLM interns, I have only begun my internship.  It has been quite an experience so far.  My resource area is located on the edge of the Great Basin in northern Nevada, and it is much different than the East, where I’m originally from.  However, different doesn’t mean bad, it just means there’s more to learn, and I’ve been learning a lot.  Everyday my brain is packed with new information; new plants, new animals, new management strategies, new monitoring techniques.  I really feel like this will give me a more broad understanding of land management as I pursue my career wherever I go.

I can’t believe I’ve been here for a month already.  It’s already starting to feel like home.  Last weekend I went to the local rodeo…look’s like I’ll be a cowboy yet!