The End of an Era, the Beginning of a Legend


Fist-bumping, bro-hoofing, or BLM legending, whatever you call it, were common ways to express the overjoyous feeling of ES&R monitoring well done, sir.

From where do I begin to summarize my internship experience this summer? From the quiet humble beginnings of plant identification, preparations, and map-making to the desert-trotting antics of a knowledgeable and thorough ES&R monitoring machine, the summer presented a vast array of challenges that we systematically overcame. Without the help and support of my fellow intern, Justin, and the Burns District BLM range staff, my internship may have been much more frustrating than it was rewarding. The range staff was immensely helpful this summer with plant identification, navigation, and monitoring protocols. Additionally, I feel as though I have made lifelong connections as a result of this internship.


Photocard after Photocard, Transect after Transect, the ES&R Monitoring Crew of the Burns District BLM gets the job done, and done right 95% of the time, every time! All in all, ES&R crew was responsible for all fires which received some form of treatment over the past 3 years. For the Burns District, this meant monitoring and reporting on 7 fires; DSL, Miller Homestead, Lamb Ranch, Holloway, Desert Meadows, Slope, and Smyth Creek.


After searching for over an hour, the mysterious trendsite of invisibility was located and read for the first time in nearly 30 years!


 The turning point of my internship was most likely our first major monitoring assignment; the Miller Homestead Fire. This was the second largest fire of 2012 in the Burns District, and received a vast array of treatment techniques through the use of ES&R Funds. More than 5 treatments were used; aerial chemical treatment, aerial seeding, high risk seed mix, extreme risk seed mix, and sagebrush seeding among others. To evaluate the effectiveness of these treatments, at least 25 trendsites were monitored on this fire alone, crossing both resource areas in the Burns District.


I destroyed 2 pairs of boots this summer hiking around the rough terrain of Burns.


This is where I learned the true value of calibration, organization, and teamwork. Many plots had to be separated out by treatment type, and figuring out what treatment took place where was a challenge in of itself. Figuring out how to navigate to each site, and then ensuring that all of the proper paperwork, supplies, and tools were brought along each day was also incredibly challenging. We eventually figured out the protocols, the checklists, and the processes that needed to take place for accurate, efficient, and safe fire rehab monitoring. Justin and I were truly pioneers in this regard, conducting more monitoring for our district than had ever been done before. This really prepared us for monitoring in the extreme terrain of the Trout Creek Mountains, another mega project we accomplished this summer.


Establishing a trend site like a boss.


The Trout Creek Mountains compounded the initial challenge of the Miller Homestead Fire. It was early July when we started living and working in the BLM bunkhouse in Fields, Oregon. Everything had to be planned out well in advance. This included having enough supplies to last for a whole week of monitoring, and not just planning a day at a time. Before we left for the bunkhouse each Monday morning, we went through a checklist:

water rebar hammer carpentry rulers Paperwork  GPS pin flag
food angle iron post pounder compass pencils markers clipboard
radio witness post density square camera photocards batteries Juno GPS

Once the checklist was complete, we set forth into the field. This involved using work truck to tow a trailer which held our UTV. We would leave by 5:00am at the latest every morning to get a jump start and avoid as much heat as we could, and it was hot working near and over the Nevada border. An additional 25 or so trendsites were read in this steep mountainous terrain. This is where we learned to properly plan to work in an extremely harsh and unforgiving environment. We learned “Proper planning prevents pitifully poor performance” and the importance of communication. For every trendsite read, it was of the utmost importance to communicate with the range conservationist who was responsible for the area. This ensured smoother trend site relocation, accurate history of the site, and proper photo orientation to continue the ongoing dataset of the site.


Once all of the trendsites in the Trout Creeks were “read”, we were given the task of performing additional monitoring throughout the burn area. Sites were randomly chosen with a GIS algorithm, and we loaded over 100 points onto our JUNO GPS. We then systematically went to each point to record perennial plant density, to further evaluate the landscape recovery.  By this point, we were essentially the masters of plant identification and ES&R protocols. Within 3 weeks, we had hit all 100+ points in several pastures throughout the Mountains.


We hiked endless kilometers to reach some of our random sample sites.



                We then turned our attention toward some of the smaller fires within our district, and began to establish several new trend sites which will be continually monitored for at least another 2 years. Once all of the monitoring was complete, we began data entry, photo organization, analyze data through graphs and figures, and finally end of year reporting. Last week, we finished all of our ES&R reports, and completed a final overall report for the current ES&R year, ON TIME! More recently, we have been preparing files, lists, and protocols for a new batch of interns to take over next year. We noted which plants were found where in the district, and updated a PowerPoint we made of all the plants in our district. Our mentor has already told us how impressed he has been with our work this summer, and that he already has plans to hire CLM Interns next year!

I am leaving my internship earlier than planned in order to prepare for my departure into the Peace Corps! I will be training to become a Sustainable Agriculture Volunteer in Ghana beginning on September 30th, only 26 days away! There is much I need to do before I can depart, but I am incredibly excited about my upcoming adventure. This internship was a great stepping stone between college and my Peace Corps Service, and I had a great experience.

Signing Off,

Dan Mayer

Burns District BLM

Hines, Oregon

Photocard after Photocard, Transect after Transect, the ES&R Monitoring Crew of the Burns District BLM gets the job done, and done right 95% of the time, every time!


The Tale of the Holloway Fire

Encountering Sage-grouse in the Trout Creek Mountains after the Holloway Fire

The past month has been a busy one, a tale of random pasture sampling, ES&R trend plots, and rattlesnakes oh my! The story revolves around the infamous Holloway fire which burned up half a million acres of desert in several BLM districts including parts of Oregon and Nevada. The scale of this fire has been hard to comprehend, disrupting the livelihood of many hardworking and friendly ranchers. MIle after mile of fence was destroyed, plant diversity in the low elevations of the Trout Creek Mountains was severely diminished, and much wildlife habitat for sage-grouse was destroyed. But, there is hope…

Enter Burns District BLM. This hardworking organization has put together a crew of legends, and legendary hard-working interns to monitor and restore the fire which altered so much on that faithful July in 2012. This team has put together and implemented plans which could forever alter how the tale of the Holloway fire in the history books. Drill-seeding was conducted, plots were established, and revised grazing management is in the works. Even sage-grouse tip their beak in the presence of this crew. Some say this crew broke the record for trend-site monitoring in a single day, but these whispers remained rumors until the crew gloriously returned from the BLM bunkhouse in Fields, Oregon on August 7th, 2013.

UTV we used to monitor in the Trout Creek Mountains

With milkshakes in toe, the crew walked with their heads held high, and their monitoring data stacked to the height of even the highest cubicles. Many jaws dropped, and cowboy hats were tipped. The rumors were true, after 5 weeks of staying at the Fields bunkhouse, the ES&R monitoring crew comprised of  2 CLM Interns and one BLM hero had accomplished what no other ES&R crew had been able to do before; reached legendary status.

Random sampling was conducted on 8 pastures in the burn with up to 20 points per pasture. Roads were few and far between, even up cliffs, and cold mountain slopes. Had it not been for the training and dedication of the CLM interns, doubt arises as to whether or not it could have been done. Driving 30 to 60 miles off road everyday for 5 weeks, starting work at 5:00am everyday, hiking unimaginable formidable terrain, establishing and reading endless trend plots, the job was done and the interns emerged from the town of Fields which has a permanent population of roughly 9 residents.

A celebration  expected from even the most veteran of BLM workers but no, the interns buckled down and kept working, entering data and creating maps, not even stopping to reflect on the accomplishments of the past month… until now.

Reflecting after a hard day of monitoring the mountains

Dan Mayer: Burns District BLM, Oregon

The Mountains, the Desert, and the Forests

My internship has already been incredibly informative and a second doesn’t go by that I don’t learn something new. For example, take this shoe tree:

Shoe trees are native to the Oregon desert and are actually propagating extremely well.

Justin (other CLM intern) and I have been an incredibly productive team the past few weeks, establishing new ES&R monitoring plots, creating GIS maps, monitoring sensitive plants (we watch what we say as to not hurt their feelings 😉 ) and evaluating fire conditions based on sage samples.

Forest just North of John Day rises out of the desert and creates islands of trees.

We have seen a majority of the Burns BLM district and the uniqueness of the district ranges from the forests in the North, the mountains in the South, to the desert in the middle where our home base is located.

Wild Kiger Mustangs rome much of the range in herd management areas in the Burns BLM district.

I have taken the opportunity to explore many of the backroads throughout the district in my downtime and it is fascinating how slight elevation changes leading to more or less precipitation can create such dramatic changes in the many ecosystems in Oregon. Just driving directly North from Burns toward John Day and further toward the Columbia River Basin, the desert and upland forests alternate the whole way, as if they were placed that way on a checkerboard.

Overall, I am enjoying my time in Hines with my wild land firefighter housemates and the local scene in Burns. As this week draws to a close, I am becoming more and more excited to attend the CLM conference at the Chicago Botanic Garden. I can’t wait to meet other interns and to exchange stories and knowledge about their internship experiences.

The desert boasts its challenges and rewards.

Greetings from the High Desert of Burns, Oregon!

Hello everyone,

I have just began my internship with the Burns District Bureau of Land Management in the beautiful high desert of Eastern Oregon. My name is Dan Mayer and I am a very recent graduate of Paul Smith’s College of the Adirondack Park in Northern New York. I graduated last weekend with a B.S. in Fisheries & Wildlife Science (Wildlife Concentration) and a Geographic Information Systems Certificate. After graduating, I was home for one day before driving cross country to Oregon, complete with a multitude of National Park Visits and National Forest drive throughs.

This is a beautiful landscape of rangelands, volcanic rocks, and high desert scrubs.

Today was the first day of my internship based out of the Burns District BLM. During my internship, I will be conducting vegetation sampling techniques in order to evaluate the effectiveness of post-wildlfire rehabilitation efforts as part of the BLM’s Emergency Response & Stabilization Program (ES&R). A large part of the beginning of my internship will be spent familiarizing myself with the native and noxious vegetation in the nearly 1.1 million acre district. As part of the program, we will be revisiting many of the fires from last year’s season, to see what’s growing back or more importantly what isn’t.

Sagebrush leaves are collected, weighed, and dried, to evaluate fire conditions.

I was able to get into the field this afternoon with my mentor, Casey, in order to evaluate fire conditions by collecting, weighing, and drying sagebrush leaves.

The vistas and landscapes seem to endlessly stretch in every direction.

For those of you unfamiliar with Southeastern Oregon, it’s an almost alien landscape of ancient volcanic rocks, arid and cracking soil, sagebrush, western red cedar, and the ever present invasive cheatgrass. Thus far, the weather has been gorgeous sunny days, and cool calm nights. The vistas and landscapes seem to stretch on forever in every direction, and the uniqueness of the terrain is hard to put into words.

This is the vehicle of choice for working in this tough environment.

Overall, I was very impressed by the group of hard working, passionate, and knowledgeable natural resource professionals that I met today at the Emigrant Creek Ranger Station and Burns BLM Office, and I look forward to prying their brains for more about the area as I settle into my CLM role.