As fall turns to winter and a season winds down

With only two weeks remaining in my CLM internship, the fall season is bringing in winter weather, and I’m beginning to reminisce on the incredible experience. img_0548

I have previously written about the cool things I have learned and done working for the BLM in Salmon, ID, which are many and diverse. I have learned a ton about working for a government agency, managing public land on a large scale, and living in the mountains of the west.

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It has been a very rewarding experience, and one of the best parts about the internship has simply been living so close to such amazing natural beauty. In the last month I have taken long weekend trips to both Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks, each of which are within 5 hours of Salmon. Even within the field office I continue to explore amazing wild places, such as Gilmore Lake pictured below.

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I have always dreamed about going to places like these, and being a CLM intern in Salmon has allowed for me to begin what is sure to be a life-long exploration of the western US.

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Lastly, I have begun to think about the relationships I have formed over the internship. We had our end of the year staff party for the seasonal employees in the office this last week. Through the stories, laughs, and good food, I realized how much I have gotten to know and enjoy the people I have worked with. The full-time staff in the Salmon field office has been so helpful and supportive, and I can see that it is a public lands office that truly operates efficiently, effectively, and with enthusiasm. I have also really enjoyed getting to know the other seasonal employees in the office. I have worked practically everyday with my fellow CLMer, Sierra, and it has been great. I have also worked off and on with the seasonals in the forestry and range programs. It is so great to meet other young people with a passion for wildlife, conservation, and outdoor recreation. I will cherish the relationships I have formed as much as my exploration of the natural environment. What a great experience this has been!

Signing off,

Austen, BLM, Salmon, ID

Amazing wildlife and the changing of the seasons

Recently, the weather around Salmon, ID has begun to change to fall. We have had our firsts frosts and snow, the mornings are much colder now, and it is harder to wake up in the morning with the reducing daylight. The changing of the season has also brought a change in my work. Working more with the range crew at the office, I have begun a fence mapping project of one of the more remote areas within my BLM field office. The mapping project forces me to hike all day long in country that I otherwise wouldn’t get to. It has been absolutely beautiful. I am seeing parts of the field office I didn’t even know existed, and am in awe with the beautiful landscape that is right outside┬ámy front door. The wildlife has also been amazing. The other day while GPSing fence, I stumbled right across 3 moose, 2 foxes, 2 rattlesnakes, and the largest herd of elk I have ever seen. To be quiet out in the wilderness surrounded by such amazing wildlife is almost a sublime feeling. This project has given me such an appreciation for the beauty that the Salmon field office holds. img_0502img_0494

Signing off for now,

Austen, BLM, Salmon, ID

Monitoring Riparian Areas and Forest Stands with the BLM

I have been very fortunate in the last few weeks to step away from Seeds of Success collections and rare species population monitoring in the sage steppe to work with different people in the office and learn new techniques for monitoring and assessing both riparian and forest health. With the forestry crew I hiked incredibly steep terrain in a beautiful Douglas fir and pine forest stand. I learned how to perform forestry plots and how to core a tree to determine its age. As a group, we stumbled across a huge Douglas fir with a diameter at breast height of 67 inches. We estimated this tree had to be at least 800 years old based off of comparisons with the ones that we were able to core!

With the range crew in the office, I learned how to perform MIMs (multiple inventory monitoring of riparian areas). We assessed plant species present along the stream banks, allowing me to show off some of my botanical knowledge. We also assessed stream-bank stability, water temperature, rock size in the channel, and width of the channel. Like with the forestry crew, performing MIMs brought me to some spectacular areas with huge cottonwood, aspen, Douglas firs, and willows. During one MIM, the vegetation and debris over the creek was so dense, that we were practically climbing like monkeys in a mangrove forest just to assess the quality of the riparian area. I really enjoy field work, and that was a lot of fun. It was really fun in the last few weeks to explore new areas within the Salmon field office and see the diversity of habitats that are present near me. It is a great advantage being a CLM intern in that I am able to explore a myriad of subjects within the office and not be stuck strictly within one area of study.

 

Signing off,

Austen, BLM, Salmon Field Office, ID

Population Monitoring of the Endemic Salmon Twin Bladderpod

In Salmon Idaho, one endemic plant species is the Salmon twin bladderpod (Physaria didymocarpa). This unique plant is in the Brassicaceae family, and there are only 8 known populations of the species. Many of these populations have not been assessed since the early 2000s, as the office hasn’t had an official botanist since 2010. So it the job of me as a CLM intern to perform population monitoring and Seeds of Success collections for the field office. The first populations monitored have been the Salmon twin bladderpod because it is so identifiable. All of the populations are in small geographic areas, as the plant requires specific environmental conditions and minor disturbances. Some of the populations are in a very robust shape, containing many hundreds of individuals. However, unfortunately, two of the eight known populations contained zero observed individuals during the field assessment. One of those populations may have been taken out in a large rock slide on a steep mountain face. As genetic diversity is so important for conservation, it was disappointing to see that some of these populations no longer exist, as it greatly increases the chance of species extinction.

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It has been incredibly fun to do population monitoring and SOS collecting, but I am still only really now beginning the adventure. I love hiking up mountain faces, jumping over creek beds, finding caves, stumbling across antlers, and gazing out at the mountains and valleys that surround my “office.” The internship so far has been amazing because I love spending time outside and exploring new areas, and many of the places I am going to have seen very little human activity. I can’t wait to see what the next four months have in store for me!

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Signing off,

Austen, BLM, Salmon Field Office, Idaho