the end of the blogs

April 27, 2016

Hello to all my loyal readers!

I am writing my final CLM blogpost now with two weeks still to go in my internship here at the San Bernardino National Forest. The next two weeks will be very busy, so as I have a moment now I will finish up my blog, paperwork, etc.

Next week I will be in the Mountaintop greenhouse and heading down to Lytle Creek. One of the Restoration Program’s new hires starts on Monday and as she will be working in the greenhouse, I will be showing her around. On Wednesday we have a pesticide use training and on Thursday I will be in the greenhouse planting pollinator species and transplanting buckwheat with a volunteer and probably my sisters, who are coming to visit for a little while.


Corethrogyne filaginifolia (common sandaster) coming up in the greenhouse. It was planted a week ago. So cute!

During my final week as a CLM intern here, I will be traveling to the Los Padres National Forest to work with them on setting up their greenhouse, which has been out of use for a few years. I will also get to help teach high schoolers how to plant milkweed. I am sure it will be interesting to experience work on another forest, and I hope I can be of use. They plan to plant the same species of milkweed we have in our greenhouse, Asclepias eriocarpa and Asclepias fasiculatum for monarch habitat enhancement.


CLM Intern, Brandon, planting milkweed in our Mountaintop greenhouse last week.

I have really enjoyed my work here because I have learned a lot of new skills and the staff are great. I have gotten to do a variety of work and projects including restoration monitoring, HMP monitoring, field plantings, fence construction, managing the greenhouse, working with AmeriCorps crew and volunteers, and being able to attend the Colorado Plateau Native Plant Conference using the CLM alternative training funds. The staff have been so helpful, especially Mary (current Biotech and former CLM intern), and who are always looking out for another training or skill to teach me.


Hannah attaching wire to a fence during a recent training.

I am ending my internship two weeks early from my original end date because during the third week of May I will start in a Forest Service Botany position. I am very excited to be staying on here for longer! I have loved the work so far here, and I am looking forward to spending more time examining plants in the field (I have a lot to learn) and surveying for rare species. This is such a cool area to explore! After moving around constantly for a year and a half, it will also be nice to stay in one place for longer than 5 months.


An introduction to rare plant surveying this week: Oopuntia basilaris (intermediate characteristics). Thanks, Mary!

Thanks to everyone at the San Bernardino National Forest who has been involved in procuring funds, training me, and answering all my questions. Thanks also to Krissa, Rebecca, and everyone else at the Chicago Botanic Garden who makes these internships possible. I have had two great experiences with CLM and hopefully I am on my way now!


Erigeron parishii (Parish’s fleabane): a California endemic. Many more interesting plants to come!

San Bernardino National Forest Restoration Program
Fawnskin, CA

Many Projects

Since my last blog, I’ve been continuing on with field work and maintaining the greenhouse. A couple of notable projects are discussed here:

I have been working off and on at the Lytle Creek Nursery, which is at the Front Country Ranger Station about an hour and a half from the Mountaintop Ranger Station in Fawnskin, CA. Not much has been going on lately at Lytle Creek, so most of what I have been doing down there is cleanup work. Mary (FS Biotech) and I weeded the planting beds, checked the water system, set up the shade cloth, and began sorting the pots to get rid of any that were breaking apart. Two weeks ago we also planted two species of milkweed (Asclepias eriocarpa and A. fasiculatum) in the hopes of bulking the seed. I set up a weeper hose system for the beds. Nothing emerging so far!


Before: beds where we seeded milkweed.



I had a fun and busy day up at the Mountaintop Greenhouse transplanting with the Americorps Crew last Thursday. We transplanted over 250 plants in one day, as well as cleaning and building all the pots for them and mixing about twelve loads of new soil. I worked for a couple of youth corps when I was younger, so it was pretty neat to be on the other side organizing and directing their work. They’re a good group!

One day a few weeks ago I went out to seed Milkweed in the field with Mary and my supervisor, Dev. This work is part of the Monarch Habitat grant where the Restoration Program is maintaining and improving monarch habitat. These seeds were collected last year, and this year we planted them in areas close to milkweed occurrences that could use more plants. We used a circular quadrat and seeded two seeds in each quarter. The hope is that at least one plant will emerge from each quadrat. I also got a tour of where previous milkweed seed was collected. Some of these areas need more surveying to record the full extent of the population.

Planting ascelpias seeds 2 03.28.16

Quadrat used to seed Asclepias.

ASCA coming up 03.28.16

First spring emergence of Asclepias fascicularis.

I was lucky to tag along on a trip to the Pebble Plain with Mountaintop Botanist, Scott. This habitat occurs only in Big Bear and Holcomb Valley nearby. The pebble plain is critical plant habitat and contains many rare endemic plant species. Scott was able to point out many of these while he himself took photographs for a talk about the Pebble Plain. Enjoy the photos below!



View of the pebble plain.


Shooting Star

Eriogonum kennedyi var austromonanum

Eriogonum kennedyi var austomontanum (Southern Mountain Buckwheat)

Ash Gray Paintbrush hosting on Eriogonum

Castilleja cinerea (Ash gray paintbrush) parasitizing Eriogonum


February to March

A lot of last week was spent preparing to take over greenhouse management from Alex (Forest Service Biotech). I was reading the greenhouse notebook, books on nursery management and pest disease, and various other articles. I met with Mary, a Forest Service Biotech who had formerly managed the greenhouse, and Alex who managed the greenhouse up until last week. I learned how to sterilize old soil, mix new soil, treat a couple of common pests, and the daily and monthly routine for completing greenhouse tasks. As I’ve been spending more time in the greenhouse, I’m noticing more, especially the pests.

Right now I am working to treat 200 manzanitas for scale. Scale is a common insect pest on many trees and shrubs. Scale insects form a waxy, protective coating and remain in one place on a plant for most of their lives. When they first hatch they crawl away from the mother to find a new spot and then lose their legs. Only males will emerge in a winged form later on to mate with immobile females. The scale feed on the plant and damage includes water stress. Our manzanita are heavily infested and the leaves are quite yellow and brittle. The treatment for scale is simply to scrape the little buggers off the plant. Since they don’t have legs they can’t come back. This I am patiently doing using an old toothbrush.


Scale on Manzanita.

Other pests we deal with in the greenhouse include aphids, gnats, and powdery mildew. There is also a mysterious problem with some of our terragon, which have small, round, black spots over the leaves. These terragon plants are quite old and have filled their pots to the bottoms with roots – apparently from what I have read this can decrease the ability of a plant to defend itself. I have also seen one more unknown pest, which, like scale, appears to be immobile on Rabbitbrush, but is brown in color. If anyone knows what these might be, please comment!


Aphids on Sandberg Bluegrass.

Captured gnats.


Mysterious Terragon affliction.


Unknown, immobile pest on Rabbitbrush.


I have continued to go in the field for restoration site monitoring, HMP monitoring, and to plant with the Americorps crews. This week I learned to build T-post fence, which is A LOT OF FUN. I learned how to plan a fence, brace the ends using Wedge-Loc or wire, use a fencing tool, pound the posts, and string the wire under the tutelage of Hannah (Southern California Mountains Foundation Employee). I can’t wait to build another!


Completed fence.


Post pounding to brace a corner.

Otherwise, the weather is getting very nice here. Since daylight savings we have light much longer in the evening, and I have been using the extra light to run along the perimeter of Big Bear Lake. We had (probably) our last snow this past Friday, and I was fortunate to be able to enjoy the rain, snow, and winds first hand as I walked home from the grocery store. By morning we had a nice coating, but it quickly melted. As always, I am working on my plant ID, reading, going to yoga classes, and recently started a knitting project.

Very cool fungi in the greenhouse.

Very cool fungi in the greenhouse.

San Bernardino National Forest
Fawnskin, CA

Second Month, Second Blog

I have been doing a few more things since last month and mainly that has included getting out into the field more and working on a five year plan for the restoration department.

On most excursions into the SBNF, I work with a more experienced staff member on restoration monitoring. This means going out to sites where restoration occurred in the past to see what condition they are in. This gives me a chance to see a lot of different types of sites, conditions, and treatments. For example, last Thursday I saw a restoration site where extensive chunking had been done, a technique that rips up the ground creating swales that are not pleasant to ride an OHV on. I also saw a different type of fence, which is called pipe rail. It is good practice to diagnose additional treatments for monitoring sites when other staff can give you feedback. I am also getting much better at mapping features with the Trimble, which is a lot of fun.


Monitoring a restoration site.

On Thursday it was very interesting to monitor in a front country section of the forest. To drive to this area, you go down the mountain, cut through San Bernardino, zip along the highway which intersects the forest land, pull off abruptly onto a dirt road, and zig zag through private property to again reach the forest land. If I hadn’t known that the highway was on forest land, I never would have guessed it. I got to see one cool plant last Thursday, which is a rare cactus species. It does not occur in many areas, but it was very abundant in the particular area we worked in on Thursday. There was one area where it was growing on a slope that was partially eroded away, and you could see the root structure clearly where the dirt was gone. I have never thought about the root structure of a cactus much before.

I am also making some headway on the five year strategic plan for the restoration program, which outlines all of the goals the program wants to reach and how to reach them in the next five years. The most interesting part is reading all the policy related to the different areas the restoration program works in, such as native plant materials, OHV restoration, weeds management, and threatened and endangered species. Each of those areas has a little section about the federal policy that I wrote up; this section is kind of supposed to show the higher ups in the Forest Service why what we do is important, you know, this work is a federal government directive and such. I have been working on it a lot today, especially the threatened and endangered species policy section because on Thursday we will have a department-wide meeting to go over it. I am sure that will be very helpful in improving the document and the revisions I have made. I am looking forward to hearing what everyone says.

Additionally, I went downhill skiing this weekend which is just about the most fun I have ever had. It gives me a new perspective on Big Bear and why the tourists flock here. I had a lesson and actually went down a substantial hill and will definitely be back on the slopes as soon as I can to practice! I also went to Joshua Tree National Park a few weekends ago and have hiked around Big Bear a few times. Other updates, I have also joined a gym where I get beat up every Saturday doing yoga, and I am reading ALL the books in the library.


Looking out over Joshua Tree National Park. No Joshua Trees in evidence.

All the best,
San Bernardino National Forest
Fawnskin, CA

A Snowy Welcome

I was welcomed to the San Bernardino National Forest with a cascade of snow. By Tuesday, January 5, my second day of work, over three feet of snow had fallen. Despite being in Southern California, I was returned to my typical Boston and St. Paul winter duties: clearing roofs and digging out cars.

After clearing the greenhouse roof.

After clearing the greenhouse roof.

This is my second CLM Internship, and I am working at the Big Bear Ranger Station here in Fawnskin, CA. It’s about two hours to Los Angeles, an hour and fifteen minutes to Joshua Tree National Park, and steps away from forest recreation opportunities like hiking, skiing, mountain biking, and OHV riding. Interestingly, my first CLM Internship site has been in the news a lot recently: heard of Burns, OR lately? Yep, it’s crazy to read about what’s going on there and remember visiting the Malheur Wildlife Refuge on a sunny spring day to watch birds.

I am working with the Resource department in their Restoration program. This is not a normal Forest Service department, like botany, wildlife, or recreation; my mentor, along with some others, created and built it up to work on restoration and revegetation within the forest. Many of the restoration sites are OHV damage sites, and the majority of the money funding the department comes from OHV grants. The resource department also works closely with a non-profit, the Southern California Mountains Foundation (SCMF), and together they get this restoration and revegetation work done. Sometimes the Forest Service people will take the lead on a project; sometimes it will be SCMF. This way they can complete a chunk of the many projects waiting to be done.

So far, I’ve been in and out of the office and the greenhouse and spent one day visiting some restoration sites in the forest. I am reading a lot of literature as part of my work updating and revising the Native Plant Materials Notebook. This notebook will be a guide to San Bernardino restoration and plant propagation programs and provide links to many resources to help other National Forests or interested groups create their own program. This is already quite an impressive document, but needs updating as well as some additional sections.

I am learning all about the plant propagation process in the greenhouse. The plants begin in flats, are transferred to “small bullets”, then to “large bullets”, and then into the “tall pots”. They may be out planted, that is, planted at a restoration site from any of the last three pot sizes depending on need. What is really interesting to me is the focus on proper genetic selection of source plants for propagation for your restoration site. I read several papers on such selections, and they focus on choosing local plants in order to avoid both inbreeding and outbreeding depression, i.e. you want to gather seed from enough plants that you have a high genetic variation from within the population, but you do not want to swamp your restoration site with genetic material that could make the plants less fit for the ecology of the site. Interestingly, in the Resource program at Big Bear this translates to gathering plants from within the range of 500 feet vertically (because of the elevation change in this mountainous area) and about one mile horizontally. I have also learned about the watering regimen, some common pathogens, and how to plant seed and transplant seedlings.

It was great to get into the field this Wednesday to visit some restoration sites. Seeing OHV damage in the field, which is such a huge problem here, helped to connect everything that I have been learning from other Forest Service employees and the literature. The landscape was also stunning, with the San Bernardino Mountains brown against the snowy San Gabriel Mountains in the distance. I was happy to recognize plants from my days as a CLM Intern in Burns and to learn some new plants from Mary, a seasonal employee who has been working with the Forest for two years, starting as a CLM Intern. I also got a quick lesson on how to use a Trimble and was able to map a fence.

I am very much looking forward to attacking the Native Plant Materials Notebook, starting some milkweed plantings in the greenhouse, and getting out into the field again to learn monitoring methodology. Other things I am looking forward to doing during my free time are hiking or snowshoeing, joining a gym, volunteering, going to the library, exploring more of the town, eventually going to LA, Joshua Tree National Park, and the hot springs, and studying for the GRE.

Best Wishes,
San Bernardino National Forest

a good time had

I was very happy to be offered a position interning with the Burns District Office. I did not know anything about the area. I did not know it was desert filled with sagebrush and rabbitbrush. I did not know it was two hours from Bend, the nearest “city”. I did not really think much about the area. I was simply elated to be going to Oregon. What a cool place!!! I was also happy to be able to answer when the people asked what I would be doing after graduation. And after graduation I flew to California, learned to drive stick, and drove to Southeastern Oregon.

The landscape in Southeastern Oregon is thrilling. The land spreads out so far the eyes ache to find and take in the edges. It is colored in yellow-brown and the sky in varying shades of blue. Sometimes when I’m driving, and I look out through the open window, and I see the undulations, the sheer rock, the little farmsteads, I feel that it might be too beautiful to ever leave this place.

I learned many new plants since coming here. I shall certainly recall climbing about various and sometimes rather treacherous spots in Harney County to identify plants. The early spring and summer were my favorite times for identifying plants. In the second week I was sent out to do special status plant inventorying and I got to sit around all day and identify plants. It was really fun then because there were so many forbs and everything was bright and glowing and green and healthy. It was a comforting feeling when first coming here, and being sent out to pretty much identify every plant there was, to see an Allium or Rosa and have a place to start. Knowing plants is an amazing thing, and my skills in using dichotomous keys have improved exponentially. It is very exciting when, after you have checked and cross checked, you confirm that you have correctly identified a species. Wherever you go in the world you will have some familiarity with the flora. You will recognize family and genus even if you do not know the species, and you will never know all the species!

This internship has also made me realize how much I have yet to learn. Some personal goals are to learn to identify more grasses in Minnesota or Massachusetts, depending on where I end up living. I would also like to learn to identify more trees and to identify them by their bark, which is a great way to do it in the winter without leaves. Since I was in the sagebrush desert, we saw few trees except for junipers or around riparian areas. Whenever I went north I would keep wondering what all the pine trees were! I remember that I learned some of them in class, but have since forgotten. So that will be a goal to keep expanding my botanical identification skills when I return home.

Another thing I learned is that you will always learn a lot on the job. The skills you already have are merely a jumping off point. Ask a lot of questions and write down the answers. I have learned new plants, new monitoring methodologies, new GPS skills, how to drive a rig, how to drive off-road, and a little more about how to navigate USAJobs. I’m naturally a little skittish, and I have learned that you will get to do more if you ask to do more and just go find more to do.

All in all, it was a good time had, largely due to the efforts of my mentor, Caryn Burri, as well as our local guide for the summer Randy Tiller (also, a tiller is part of a grass). Thanks also to Krissa and Rebecca! I will enjoy showing a few of my favorite Harney County spots to my Mom when she comes to visit this week!

Signing off forever,

Marta LeFevre-Levy

Burns District BLM

Hines, OR

p.s. here are some picture from our last photo shoot. Ariana is a model, like true dawg. BEST FRIENDS!! <3 <3 <3 😀 Also, Justin C. is a legend here. The end.

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goings and stayings

The month of September has been filled with various goings and stayings. I continued going out in the field for the first three weeks of the month. When the massive Buzzard Complex Fire was put out, which roared through Eastern Oregon burning around 400,000 acres, I began traveling all over Harney County to take initial monitoring photos and notes at trend sites. Many of these plots are way out in the boonies and required several hours of travel over rough roads to get to. It has been interesting to see the variation in the intensity of the burns at different plots. Some plots were scourged bare, the black stumps of sage and rabbitbrush thrusting despondently from the soil, a few brown bottoms of burned perennial grasses here and there, but no green showing. Other plots had burned much more lightly and patchily, showing unburned clumps of vegetation and grass with seed heads intact. In many plots a little green had returned, only weeks after the fire. Rabbitbrush seemed particularly good at regenerating, and there was green at the base of the scorched bushes. The non-native perennial grass, crested wheatgrass, was also regenerating in many plots.


Burned plot within the Buzzard Complex Fire. This one has almost no vegetation left.


Something green is coming back!


Surveying the burn.

I also got to attend a tour of the Buzzard Complex Fire. This tour was to give members of other organizations a chance to see the scope of the fire. The hope was that seeing the fire and hearing members of the BLM and researchers from the Eastern Oregon Agricultural Research Center speak would help them understand why particular rehabilitation efforts are important and gain their support. Mainly, they explained why it is important to use non-native species (mostly crested wheatgrass, perhaps forage kochia) for rehabilitation. Crested wheatgrass has shown a much higher rate of successful growth with aerial seeding than natives. The BLM staff emphasized that they are not against using natives, and if they were effective they also would prefer to use natives, but that since natives are not effective, it is important to get something that will seed successfully on the ground in order to prevent annual grasses from coming in and soil erosion. Having annual grasses come in and soil erosion creates another sluice of problems. There was a lot of discussion back and forth between the scientists, the BLM managers, and the guests, which was very interesting to listen in to. I think most of the guests were on board with the need to use non-native plants to rehab. Some of them seemed to be putting on battle faces to go back to their organizations and convince those dead set against using non-natives for rehabilitation.


Touring. You can see the burned hillsides in the background.


Dust cloud in the Buzzard Complex Fire. This is how erosion happens. Get some rehab in there!

As part of the tour, the researchers from the Agricultural Research Center showed us one of their research plots. Consisting of five subplots, the research is focused on understanding what treatment and vegetation is most effective for post-fire rehab. There was a control plot (no herbicide, no seed mix), a plot that was only sprayed with herbicide, a native only seed mix (herbicide, then seed application), a native/non-native, 50/50 ratio seed mix (mostly crested wheatgrass; herbicide, then seed application), and a seed mix with a higher ratio to non-native to native seed (herbicide, then seed application). There was a drastic difference in how the vegetation in each plot did after the fire swept through, and you could really see that the seed mix with the higher ratio of non-native bunchgrass seed had both more vegetation per square meter than the other plots, as well as having had greater fire resistance.


You can see the herbicide only plot in the forefront; without seeding the undesirable Russian thistle filled the open space. Behind that is the native/non-native seed mix with 50/50 ratio.

Besides all of the above, I have spent a significant amount of time staying in the office to complete paperwork. Along with getting all of our collected data organized, I have been helping the Rangeland Management Specialists enter data and organize it in file folders. Some of the data is from last year, so I am glad to help them catch up on it all. Everyone has a lot on their plates now, what with all the paperwork needed to secure funds to rehab this year’s burns. Settled at the computer in my little cubicle, I often hear bodiless voices drifting, expounding about the recent difficulties in getting the paperwork done. Clearly, there is a lot to be done and a lot of subtleties and complexities to contend with. It is not always easy working within such a large organization as the BLM. I have been amazed, however, by the integrity with which the members of this office approach their jobs. Despite setbacks and bureaucracy they really want to move forward and make progress by doing what is best for the land even if it is not the easiest to accomplish.


Getting work done in the cube. Even indoors, plants abound.

I am looking forward to the last month of my internship! I have absolutely no idea what I will be doing next week. 😉

Up on the Steens

Last week we headed out to Steens Mountain to do plant inventorying for two RNAs (Resource Natural Area). The purpose of an RNA is the be a “naturally occurring physical or biological unit where natural conditions are maintained in so far as possible”. They are also areas that can be used as baselines for measuring the quality of other similar environments and the effects that humans have on them, used for science, and used as a gene pool for species. The two RNAs we were to visit are called Rooster Comb and Little Wildhorse Lake. Rooster Comb is a 720 acre RNA near the base of the Steens and the Little Blitzen River. Little Wildhorse Lake RNA is about 240 acres and is documented to contain nine special status plants. We spent three days up on the Steens, staying out at a little cabin of a building that the BLM owns near Riddle Brothers Ranch.

We spent two days at Rooster Comb to cover more of the area. It was a nice hike in and out, traveling a good chunk of the way by the Little Blitzen. It was pleasant to settle in and examine the plants, asking “who are you?” and trying to listen for a response. We identified 79 plant species in Rooster Comb and I am sure there are many more we missed. A few of my favorites were Actea pachypoda (doll’s eye), Aquilegia formosa (western columbine), Populus angustifolia (narrowleaf cottonwood), Collomia linearis (tiny trumpet), and Scirpus microcarpus (panicled bulrush). We had to do some detective work since many of the forbs were no longer flowering. We used the vegetative features to figure these out.  On Thursday morning we rose at the crack of dawn and drove up to the top of the Steens. The views are spectacular, as you can see deep into the gorges of the green and craggy landscape. Little Wildhorse Lake is situated at the base of one of these gorges, where the land flattens out for several hundred meters before rising steeply again. Looking down from the top, the lake looks small and fish-shaped, the descent long. After taking the Gorge Trail a bit too far, we doubled back to the unmaintained Desert Trail. We followed it until it dwindled to nothing, and we were left scrabbling among boulders, dirt, loose rocks, and vegetation. Due to the likelihood of the feet slipping despite the will of the brain, we turned tail and headed back up, hoping to find a better way down on some other day.

Still, I was happy and excited to see two special status plants in the field above Little Wildhorse Lake. These were Steens Mountain Paintbrush (Castijella pilosa var. steenensis) and Steens Mountain Penstemon (Penstemon davidsonii var. praeteritus), both endemic to Steens. The paintbrush is a plant of similar style and structure to other paintbrushes, but with grayish-green bracts instead of being brightly colored. The penstemon is a large, brightly pink-purple and grows in mats low to the ground. Gorgeous!

Back at the top of the Steens, we met a botanist who is researching grasses (a new species!) and completing an Oregon guide to Carex species. He showed us on the map a way he has gotten down to Little Wildhorse Lake, so when we go out again we will try that way and hopefully make it down. I hope we do because I really want to see the plants down there – it is very beautiful. I would also like to find more of the special status plants and have a chance to do the paperwork and GPS boundary markings for the populations.

I went back up to the Steen over the weekend to hike down to Wildhorse Lake (a different lake from Little Wildhorse, but nearby). This is a steep descent, but has a good trail. The Eriogonums (desert buckwheats) were in abundant bloom, quilting the slopes with varying shades of yellow. Purple monkey flowers (Minulus spp.), red paintbrush (Castijella spp.), light purple wild flax (Linum perenne), the many stamened yellow blazing star (Mentzelia laevicaulis), white sandwort (Arenaria aculeata), and fuzzy pussytoes (Antennaria spp.) were also around. The lake sparkled in the sunlight and a long-beaked, long-legged wading bird stalked in the shallows.


Wildflowers at Wildhorse Lake. Courtesy Ariana Gloria-Martinez.

Wildflowers at Wildhorse Lake. Courtesy Ariana Gloria-Martinez.

Castijella spp. at Wildhorse Lake. Courtesy Ariana Gloria-Martinez.

Castijella spp. at Wildhorse Lake. Courtesy Ariana Gloria-Martinez.

Eriogonum spp. at Wildhorse Lake. Courtesy Ariana Gloria-Martinez.

Eriogonum spp. at Wildhorse Lake. Courtesy Ariana Gloria-Martinez.

Minulus spp. at Wildhorse Lake. Courtesy Ariana Gloria-Martinez

Minulus spp. at Wildhorse Lake. Courtesy Ariana Gloria-Martinez


Identifying Grasses is Patriotic

The Fourth of July is a big deal in a small town. Burns, OR hosts a parade, hotdog feed, and fireworks. I emerged from my house around 9:30 to walk to Broadway in “downtown” Burns where the parade was to take place. Families lined the street on both sides. It was good to see all the Burnsonians out and about. The Girls Scouts marched by holding their banner, various city trucks came by, and the Queen of the Rodeo rode her horse. The director of the BLM also came by to chat and I saw several other BLM employees. You never know who you’ll run into.

I returned home for the second activity of my Fourth of July, which was a grass identifying tutorial given to me by my roommate and fellow CLM intern, Ariana Gloria-Martinez. She knows much about grasses and speaks freely with them in a language I cannot yet fully understand. First, she patiently explained the parts of the inflorescence: spikelet, glume, lemma, palea, ligule, auricle, leaf sheath, node, blade, rachis. Next she went through each tribe of grass, giving me details about their identifying characteristics. For example, the aristideae tribe tends to have three awned lemmas. I assiduously took notes. It was a wonderful activity for the fourth of July because, in my opinion, identifying grasses is patriotic. I shall continue to practice my grass identification in the hopes of learning more of their secrets.

To finish up the fourth, I made an extremely large dinner and headed to the fireworks at the county fairgrounds. The conversation of a small child with his grandparents in the car next to me kept me entertained during the spectacular show. I certainly feel lucky to be able to enjoy such community activities.

Scuttle About the Landscape

Although it is my first blog entry, I have been working at the Burns, OR BLM for over a month now. In this time I’ve gotten to see some country. The first week of work, I drove the county border with my fellow intern to get a sense of the area the BLM manages. The Burns office manages millions of acres. They manage land for multiple uses: this includes maintaining habitat for the sage grouse (a special status species), keeping the land healthy for cattle grazing, monitoring special status plant species, and rehabilitation after wildfire, among many other responsibilities. As a botany intern, I work on plant species monitoring in areas that have previously been burned. I also survey areas where there are populations of special status plants.

This past week we spent two nights down at the Hilton. Myself, the other intern, and the seasonal we work with stayed in the eight bedroom lodging in southern Harney County while surveying some burn areas. The weeds crew also stayed there, so I got to meet some of my fellow Burns District BLM employees. They spend six months spraying weeds like Russian thistle from ATVs in all weather and conditions. If it’s a weed, they spray it and don’t care much for the feelings of the plants. Monday and Tuesday of this week were extremely windy and cold. We did burn monitoring and I was glad we were not working up as high as the weeds crew, though the wind still cut through my four layers.

Wednesday we went even farther south to look for a special status plant. Sitting high up in our big truck, I gazed out the windows. The sky is really wide open here, not like where I’m from, where the sky is a thin passageway between trees that caress the sides of the highway. We zipped through Nevada, where the speed limit goes up fifteen miles to a cool 70mph. This was my first time in Nevada, and it doesn’t look much different from Oregon.

After a maze of rough riding on dirt roads, we pulled over. I’ve quite come to enjoy doing special status plant surveying. I get to scuttle about the landscape identifying whatever intriguing plants I come across. This site was dry, dry, dry. The branches of every plant were brittle. The sagebrush, usually light green in color, was tinged with yellow. We did not see a single forb. The area was fairly uniform and after an initial stream of identifications, we didn’t find much that was new. Still we gave it a good, thorough look. I climbed to the top of a hill, ranging out a ways, to see what I could find. As I walked, I kept my eyes on the ground, watching for rattlers. I have not seen a rattle snake yet, but those who know have told us to watch out for them and we’re supposed to kick the bushes before we reach down into them to identify. At the top of the hill the land spread out, rolling and cresting like waves. I took a few minutes to soak it in, then put my eyes back to the ground, and forged onward.

Onward to more surveying. Onward to more plants of special concern. Onward to new adventures.