Farewell Cedarville

I spent 1 year as a CLM intern working for the BLM Surprise Field Office in Cedarville, CA. My experience was unforgettable and extremely beneficial. I gained such a wide variety of experience and new skills which as made me into a stronger, more confident individual ready to take on new challenges. Here is a short list of some of the projects I worked on:

-Native Seed Collection for Seeds of Success

-Assessment Inventory and Monitoring (Vegetation monitoring on SageSteppe habitat restoration sites)

-Developing seed mixes and implementing seedings as a part of Emergency Stabilization and Rehabilitation (post-fire rehabilitation)

-Training with NRCS soils scientists on how to dig soil pits and identify soils

-Lots and lots of GIS work

-NEPA writing

-Sage-grouse trapping and collaring, and Sage-grouse lek surveys

This is not even a complete list. I learned so much from this experience and I highly recommend anyone thinking about applying to do so. You will make many connections and gain valuable skills. Not to mention meeting many great people at the CBG training in Chicago. It’s awesome.

These are my last words of advice as a CLM intern-

-Don’t limit yourself to location. I can’t stress this enough.  I was so nervous to move to Cedarville, fearing that I would feel isolated and bored out of my mind on the weekends. However, after a few weeks, I was enjoying my work so much that the location didn’t bother me one bit. I actually really enjoyed a break from civilization as most of us know it.

-Communicate with you mentor and be open about what skill you want to gain. Yes, your mentor will have an agenda for you but there is usually room for opportunities to learn. Let them know what skills you would like to develop.

-Be involved. A lot goes on at the BLM and other federal agencies. We are employed by Chicago Botanic Gardens but that doesn’t mean you can’t be in the loop as to what’s going on at your local field office. Talk with the experts at your office and soak up as much knowledge as possible!

Thanks to everyone at Chicago Botanic Gardens for making this program happen. Krissa and Rebecca you have been especially great! You are so good about being available and getting back to us with any questions or concerns and being flexible to meet our needs.

Thanks so much CBG and good luck to all the current and future CLM interns!


Amy Thorson

CLM Intern

BLM- Surprise Field Office


Help, I’m stuck in the office

Still holding it down in Surprise Valley. Things are going well and I’ve had the opportunity to work on a number of interesting projects. Most recently, I spent some time in Susanville helping out with a FIAT assignment (Fire and Invasive Annuals Treatment). For an added bonus, I got to go to a BBQ and meet some awesome CLM alumni! The goal of this assignment was to identify sites within focal sage grouse habitat and prioritize them for treatment and protection. I spent time writing up these plans for the Surprise Field office which required a lot of research and background investigation. I then helped compile all the write ups from the Western Great Basin to send off to FWS. It was a great learning experience.

Currenlty, I have been focused on developing a monitoring schedule for the upcoming field season, which couldn’t come any sooner! This has included designing a plan for post fire treatment and natural recovery monitoring, identifying seeds of success sites and scheduling habitat restoration monitoring. In regards to monitoring, there has been a lot of discussion revolved around the AIM protocol. This is the primary terrestrial monitoring protocol adopted by the BLM. I have been attending meetings with other field offices to discuss what answers we can get from this protocol, what answers we still need, and in the latter case, additional monitoring we can use to get them. It has been rewarding to meet a lot of new folks and gain exposure to different methods of monitoring and land management.

I have also been doing a little NEPA writing. We are proposing habitat restoration/juniper reduction treatments on a number of sites throughout the field office. A programmatic EA was completed in 2013. The next step is to write the DNAs for the 2015/2016 projects which I have been great at putting off until now.

Thanks for reading!





Grand Canyon Adventure

I was finally able to use all the comp time that piled up over the season and I have to say, it was well worth the extra hours. A few weeks ago I took a trip to the Grand Canyon National Park. It was incredible. Similar to the vibrant colors of a tropical ocean, no photograph can portray the overwhelming visual stimulation that accompanies a real life experience at the grand canyon. This was definitely the highlight of my summer. IMG_1097 (1)

Aside from a great vacation, work continues to stay busy. Minus the intimidating stack of herbarium vouchers to organize and send, Seeds of Success has finally come to an end for the 2014 season. Tackling this endeavor independently has taught me a lot. It has forced me to take initiative, ask a lot of questions, keep an organized schedule and be patient. It was not an easy task however, the sense of accomplishment and professional growth that I have developed made every minute worth it. Perhaps the greatest lesson I learned was to be patient and know that field work typically does not go as planned. There will always be obstacles and set backs but if you learn to be flexible, innovative and make decisions on the fly, everything will work out in the end. Just stick with it.

The weather is changing quickly but there is still plenty of work to be done. The seed we ordered for Emergency Stabilization and Rehabilitation has been slow to arrive. It has been a bit of a nightmare trying to track down each shipment and simultaneously organize the workforce necessary to complete the planting. We have completed a few hundred acres of drill seeding and there is more to be done.  However, our seed shipments were backed up and we no longer have access to the equipment or work staff for this season. On top of that, the snow has already begun to fly and it is a race against the clock. Focusing on broadcast seeding and hand planting will bring us to the end of our field season very soon.

It has been a whirlwind trying to keep up with the daily operations at the Surprise Valley Field Office due to very limited staff.  However, I have been given more opportunities than I could ask for, which I am overwhelmingly grateful for. I will continue to work for Surprise through the winter, acquiring new skills and facing new challenges every day. This experience continues to impress me and I encourage anyone with an interest in conservation and land management to apply for this program.

Happy Holidays Everyone!

Amy Thorson- BLM Surprise Valley FO





Native wildflower garden

It feels like I have done a million things since I last posted a blog and it’s only been a month. There’s far too much to say so I will keep it short and share a bit about the latest project I have been working on.

A few months ago one of the reservoirs on our resource area was dredged in order to make it habitable for fish.  Some areas had to be removed of vegetation to complete the project. I have been in charge of revegetation, which includes planting a native wildflower garden on an archaeological site. The goal is to make it a pleasant place for fisherman, hunters or campers to enjoy. Last week I planted 20 aspen trees. I am excited to see how they will do because quaking aspen is a really hard tree to grow and most wildland plantings are unsuccessful. This week I harvested hundreds of willow and cottonwood cuttings, which I will plant next week. I put together a seed order for planting on some of the more disturbed areas and I am still designing the native wildflower garden. It has been a really fun project to work on. I have learned a lot along the way and am eager to see how it turns out.

Lesson: Use your resources! There are so many knowledgeable people out there and once you get them started, they love to talk about what they know! If you read a paper online by someone working for the forest service or NRCS or wherever, look them up and give them a call. I received great information from a number of people I contacted for advice on this project.

A break from botany

It’s been another busy month in Surprise Valley. I am wrapping up seed collections for the season, reaching my target of 16 species. If time permits, I will collect a few different shrubs when the time comes. Overall, I learned a lot from my experience as a collector. I hope for another shot at some point, knowing that I can do things better the next time around.

My current focus has been on writing Environmental Assessments and tracking down the equipment and seeds needed to re-vegetate some riparian areas and burn sites. It has been a challenge to find the right seed mixes within our budget because native seeds are getting to be expensive.

This past week I was able to get a break from plant stuff and help out at the Summit Lake Reservation. I went out to trap and collar sage-grouse which was quite the experience. I spent three nights in a row wandering about with a fishing net looking for the birds. We had success the last night and now we know where there are many birds roosting for future attempts. During the day time I got to track the birds that had already been collared. We were able to find 3 out of 7 birds. Although I am exhausted form being up around the clock for the past three days, it was an awesome experience.


Baby sage-grouse

More good times in Surprise Valley

Seeds of Success has taken up most of my time this month. Although this season has been extremely dry, Matt and I have been able to collect 13 species so far. Most of our species have come from riparian areas where there is ample moisture for plants to produce an abundance of healthy seeds. Our favorite collection site is called Steven’s Camp and it has an adorable little cabin. This site is also swarming with American kestrels and other birds of prey.

Besides seed collecting we have been conducting rare plant surveys on project areas proposed for juniper reduction/habitat restoration. We have not found any but have come across suitable habitat for a few different species of concern. We are currently working on writing an Environmental Assessment for one of these juniper reduction projects. It has been a great opportunity to get familiar with the NEPA process and writing environmental documents, which is a crucial skill to have.

Another huge project in action is working on an Emergency Rehabilitation and Stabilization (ESR) plan for a fire that happened on our resource area. It was a 14,000 acre fire that we plan to rehab starting in October as long as we get the funding. I have been involved in developing seeding mixtures and looking at pricing. It has made me realize how important seeds of success is and having seeds available that are adapted to the area, especially because native seed prices are so expensive. It has given me an extra push to collect over 10,000 seeds whenever possible.

Highlights from July:

-The bear caught on the wildlife camera at one of our guzzlers. It’s quite rare for our project area.

-Visiting the Lutz farm. The Lutz’s are a couple that has been working with Seeds of Success collectors from our field office. They grow our seeds and do research projects. They will be providing us with 750 sagebrush seedlings to use for the ESR on the fire.

-Hiking in the Warner mountains.

-Chilling with the horses at Bitner Ranch.

Lost Bear looking for water.

Lost Bear looking for water.

My new friends.

My new friends.

Hawk on top of Stevens Camp cabin.

Hawk on top of Steven’s Camp cabin.

Hike to Patterson Lake in the Warner Mountains

Hike to Patterson Lake in the Warner Mountains



I can hardly believe that July is nearly here, although the weather assures me it is. My time in Surprise Valley is going so fast, most of which has been spent scouting and collecting for Seeds of Success. Due to the drought, flowering periods have been off track which has made it challenging to get the timing right for collecting.

Other projects I’ve worked on include vegetation inventory and data collection on juniper reduction project sites and rare species inventory. We have not found any rare species on the project’s sites thus far.

The highlight of the month for me was getting to do field work with two NRCS soil scientists. I have been interested in learning more about soils so I was thrilled to have this opportunity. I learned how to texture and color soil, and determine the correct ecological site description based on the soil composition.

Although work has been plentiful I have also had time for fun. Last weekend I hiked in the Warner Mountains on a ridgeline trail called Pepperdine which ended at Patterson lake. Swimming at Lillie lake has been relaxing and has made the heat more manageable. Tonight I look forward to going to the Modoc Super Bull rodeo! Afterwards there will be a traditional barn dance. Yeehaw!

So far CLM has been full of learning opportunities. I did not anticipate the variety of skills I have picked up so far and l look forward to what is next.

My apologizes for the lack of visuals. I will make sure to include a few photos next month!


Bureau of Land Management                                                                                      Surprise Valley Field Office                                                                                     Cedarville, CA



Life in the Valley of Surprise!

Starting a new job often comes with a mixed bag of emotions including excitement, fear, determination, and anxiety. I personally experienced all of these emotions and more prior to starting my CLM internship in Cedarville, CA. I was nervous about the job, as well as moving to a new place where I knew no one. Of course it is natural to have these feelings but at times they seemed overwhelming. However, taking a leap of faith, and concurring my emotions has made me into a stronger person. Each time I leave my comfort zone and try something new, I am rewarded with new skills, more confidence and new life experiences.

When I arrived to Cedarville, I new it was going to be a new way of living and would take some getting used to. The town has a population of roughly 400, there is one grocery store, one gas station, and I do not have any cellphone service. A remote location such as this may not be for everyone however, one month has passed and I have come to love it here. It is quietly tucked away in a valley surrounded by beautiful mountain ranges with ample opportunities for outdoor recreation. Enough said about Cedarville. Let me tell you what I have been up to at the Bureau of Land Management.

The Surprise Valley field office in Cedarville manages over a million acres of land, straddling the border of northeastern california and northwestern nevada. The majority of the land is considered sage-steppe ecosystem and is important habitat for many wildlife species including the greater sage-grouse. Populations of this ground dwelling bird are currently in decline due to habitat destruction and fragmentation. As a result, restoring the sage-grouse habitat has become a main focus of the Surprise Valley BLM.

One cause of habitat destruction comes from encroachment of western juniper trees (Juniperus occidentalis). Due to a reduction of wildland fires, juniper trees have expanded their territory significantly, encroaching on the sage-steppe ecosystem. Western juniper absorbs a high volume of water, and competes with native vegetation for resources. Part of the sage-steppe ecosystem restoration strategy is to reduce juniper encroachment using a variety of treatments. This project will include both pre-treatment and post-treatment vegetation monitoring. What I have been doing for the past few weeks is establishing pre-treatment vegetation monitoring plots and collecting data.

Jumping right into this project on my first day of work was challenging. I had to learn the protocol on the spot and learn a long list of plants that were unfamiliar to me in a short period of time. However, it has been a valuable learning experience so far and I am certain that my knowledge and skills will continue to progress as more time goes by.

Vegetation monitoring has taken up the bulk of my time however, there have been a few opportunities to get involved with other projects. For starters, I have been scouting out sites to collect seeds for the Seeds of Success program. This has been a challenge due to the ongoing drought in the area. Forbs are especially difficult to find. I also spent a day planting basin wildrye (Leymus cinereus) starts that were grown by local high school students using seeds that were collected by a previous CLM intern. Lastly, I was able to go along with my mentor to install game cameras at two bighorn sheep guzzlers. Afterwards we used radio telemetry to track down the bighorn sheep that were released several years ago. With some patience, we spotted four bighorn sheep having a lazy day on the side of a ridge. On the drive back to the office, we came across a Golden Eagles nest holding this bundle of joy:



Until next time,

Amy Thorson

BLM Surprise Valley

Cedarville, CA