All Good Things Must Come to an End

Farewells can be difficult, especially when you’ve enjoyed yourself so much. The end to my CBG internship in Lander, WY is bittersweet. I remember driving to Lander from Iowa. Approaching the mountains was exhilarating. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine myself moving to a place next to the mountains. The breathtaking views were indescribable and I will greatly miss them.

During the last few weeks of my internship, I spent time doing a variety of projects. My partner and I spent countless days letting down a fence to aid in elk migration. We also got to assist with two sage projects: a reclamation on Green Mountain and a restoration at Castle Gardens.

Reflecting back on my CBG internship, I never would have thought I would gain so much knowledge. Coming from a tallgrass prairie to sagebrush steppe was both intimidating and exciting. Exciting when I could actually recognize some plants from my time in central Nebraska and encouraging when I started recognizing plants that I had just learned. Though the short green season made identifying plants hard once they browned (literally everything just looked like dead grass haha).

I now leave Lander (for the most part) with a sense of accomplishment. I’ve learned so many new things, both from my mentor and from the CBG conference. I will miss working in the BLM office but I hope to return someday to visit or work.

Until next time,

– James Noyama
Bureau of Land Management – Lander Field Office                                                 Lander, Wyoming

A Plethora of New Opportunities

Over the past month, I have had the opportunity to work on many new projects. The first being a hike through Sweetwater Canyon. This hike occurs every year when the Aspen and Willow leaves just start changing color. We were split into two teams; each team taking half of the canyon. The goals for the hike were to document changes in vegetation along the greenline, find, re-take, and GPS record location photos, and to find any stray cows that may have been missed. Though challenging, finding old photo locations was fun (we only had old photos to go off of) and rewarding. My team also looked for signs of Boreal Frogs in the canyon as we hiked and salamanders on some riparian areas outside the canyon where they had previously been recorded. Sadly, we didn’t find any.

After the canyon hike, we had a few days of not so pleasant weather. With that came a lot of office work. Office worked involved filing (which I enjoy a few good hours of filing), creating a master allotment file for the Wildlife people to use, and assisting with billing catch-up. Billing was an interesting task. We ended up having to redo a bunch of letters we had made because we were informed we did something wrong through no fault of our own. The person teaching us how to make the letters forgot to tell us about a portion so we ended up spending an extra day fixing our letters. This was no problem at all since the field was inaccessible.

Snow…. I was not expecting you so soon.

Once the weather cooperated, we made our way back out into the field in search of cattle! By this time, most cattle had left the allotments in which we worked. We did find a few stragglers but they made it home. In searching for any cattle that may have been forgotten, my partner and I noticed many more horses. We couldn’t tell if we had just never noticed them because of our fixation on cattle or if more had shown up. Seeing them in such large herds was beautiful.

We came across a huge herd of horse while searching for cattle.

Looking out across one of the pastures scanning for any left cattle.

Scanning for the ever elusive cattle. None were to be found!

Currently, we are finishing up some final measurements in our key riparian areas, making some new fences safe for Sage Grouse, and starting an Environmental Assessment (EA) so we can get more experience with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). I look forward to the last month of this internship and all of the continuing education and experience I shall gain.

Sage, Eclipse, and Hiking Slide

Continuing on my adventure, I have consistently recorded the location of cattle for grazing compliance. I learned that cattle have a wonderful mind of their own. They know where those great riparian areas are and do not like to comply with not grazing in some of these areas. Of late, my partner and I have had to diligently check certain areas to make sure the cattle are not in them. The first day we didn’t see any was amazing! We will see if they continue on this trend of complying.

Besides checking riparian areas for cattle compliance, my partner and I have begun running an adapted habitat assessment framework for Sage Grouse (HAF) in an allotment up for NEPA renewal. Doing so has taught us a lot of new techniques we have not yet performed such as line-point intercept and canopy gap. Though we realized having mostly done riparian work, our plant recognition skills have diminished slightly. Now I feel more confident in my ability to identify those plants species I have not seen in quite some time. However, I still need help identifying those plants that have cured out. The Botanist on staff has been a great resource! Conducting adapted HAF assessments has lead to some interesting poses in the field. I feel like one just has to go with the flow maneuvering around and through the sagebrush.

Measuring the height of sagebrush during HAF

Just practicing some yoga while conducting point-intercept for HAF

I’m sure everyone has heard that there was a solar eclipse. Some of the other interns and myself took the day off to observe this phenomenon. I was beyond awesome. Lander had quite the flow of traffic. Between the eclipse and the local music bands playing that night, a huge amount of people were about! It was wonderful seeing so many people though I had to avoid the coffee shop because the wait was about an hour.

Recently on the weekends, another intern and I went up to Sinks Canyon State Park to slide down the rock slide. I had seen about a month before but the water was still flowing a bit too much for it to be safe and the water was freezing! I could hardly walk in the little pools we were by. This time on our hike, we were determined to slide down it. On a lower rock there were several people cheering others on that were afraid to go down. The encouragement was much appreciated. Hitting the water below literally took the breath out of me. It was ridiculously cold for being such a warm day but I am also not used to snow melt water. Though cold, I could resist going down the slide a few times before deciding it was time to dry off and head back down for dinner. The other intern and I have plans to go up again to slide down some more before it becomes too cold out.

The slide at Sinks Canyon State Park

Until next time,

– James Noyama
Bureau of Land Management – Lander Field Office                                                 Lander, Wyoming

Continuing to Live the Life!

This entry marks the 3 month of being in Lander as a rangeland intern. It is amazing how time is flying by. The upcoming weeks are filled with excitement and a plethora of events. One of which is the Solar Eclipse! I am stoked that I can witness this rare occurrence.

Much has transpired since the last time I posted. I got to experience the wonders of Yellowstone with old and new friends. I was quite surprised at the number of buffalo we saw while leaving the park and just at the diversity of organisms. Sadly, I did not get to see a bear but, there is always next time! I think my favorite part was at the end when we hiked up to the painted pots. They are quite interesting and I have enjoyed learning more about how they were formed.

Enjoying some ice cream during a hot afternoon in Yellowstone

The painted pots and their wonderful “plooping” noise.

As for work, my work partner and I were able to help recreate some monitoring that hasn’t been conducted since the 90s and early 2000s, which will be used for a NEPA document. This allowed us to learn some new plants within riparian areas, visit a new and exciting area, and to experience trying to find areas whose marking posts have been removed or knocked down. We still have to do some greenline monitoring that we were unable to complete due to high and fast running waters. Plus, we get to look forward to spending a day or two hiking an entire canyon for data collection in mid to late August.

Orchid found near a riparian area we are monitoring.

Beautiful group of butterflies an a thistle.

Besides work, I have taken the opportunity to explore Lander a bit more. The amount of events held is a bit overwhelming at times, but all of the events are fun to attend. The hiking in the area is top-notch. I was finally able to hike up Sinks Canyon and the views were spectacular. My partner had been in town and was quite impressed with the views we say. Plus, the flowers were beautiful in the area!

Popo Agie River flowing up at Sinks Canyon

Until next time,

– James Noyama
Bureau of Land Management – Lander Field Office                                                 Lander, Wyoming

A Myriad of Experiences

Well, another 3 weeks have flown by! It is hard to imagine that so much time has passed. As the title of this post implies, I have had countless experiences. I will just touch on a few I found most meaningful.

First, attending the CBG Workshop in Chicago was by far one of the greatest learning experiences I’ve had thus far. The knowledge I’ve gained gained on plants was heavily reinforced and jogged many memories from my graduate classes in Nebraska. Also, simply the real-talk on getting jobs after this internship were beyond beneficial. I feel slightly more prepared to apply for and get a job after the CLM Internship.

Second, we began monitoring the riparian systems the allotment we were assigned for the field season and continued monitoring the cattle. Having never worked on a riparian system, I was excited to learn whatever I could from my mentor and the permittee that accompanied us the first day. Just hearing the permittee’s thoughts on the land and management practices was amazing. The plethora of knowledge he had was quite surprising as well. I believe that his accompaniment further enhanced the learning process. He even went so far as to test us on the land formations around us after he taught us the names. That was unexpected pleasure and helped ingrain the names into my mind. My partner and I practiced saying the names of the formations while doing compliance checks for cattle.

Surveying for Cattle Compliance Within a Previously Burned Pasture

Last, the amazing views and critters I have seen while monitoring have been awe-inspiring. The abundance of Pronghorn still surprises me. The young of the year have grown so much in the past few weeks. It is interesting seeing how many are very timid and run at the sight of our truck but others wait until we get fairly close before bounding off with their mother.

Other critters we’ve seen thus far include sage grouse (with young!), Golden Eagle, Lark Sparrows, Lark Buntings, Mule Dear, and horny toads! I thought a horny toad was horny, toad but was surprised to find out it is a lizard (I honestly have not heard of them until coming to Wyoming). The horny toad was super cute and made our day in the field that much more pleasant.

Horny Toad Found While Doing Vegetation Monitoring

Photo from “Above the Rim” Near Our Allotment

I look forward to the weeks ahead in the field. Fingers-crossed we don’t get stuck or have a flat tire anytime soon!

Until next time,

– James Noyama
Bureau of Land Management – Lander Field Office                                                 Lander, Wyoming

An Unexpected Delight

While traveling to Lander, WY from Iowa, I pondered the changes I would have to make. Would there be places I can eat out at being vegan? Would there be supplies such as tofu and soy sauce? What outside activities does the area offer? I honestly was terrified moving to an unfamiliar area. After crossing the Wyoming-Nebraska, this fear slowly faded. The scenery was beyond gorgeous. The mountains and pine-filled ridges drew my attention and filled my with awe. The adventure ahead was suddenly super exciting.

Arriving a few days before my internship started allowed me to explore Lander. I quickly went to the store to assess their products. Being vegan was possible! I stocked up on any supplies I’d need to make lunches and dinners for the week. Afterwards I took a stroll down the main street. Much to my surprise, Lander had quite a lot to offer for being a small city. One of the most exciting finds was a coffee shop containing a bouldering wall! The last exploring I did was walking a trail along the Popo Agie River (I still do have no idea how to say it even after asking my mentor and my roommate asking locals). The scenery was beautiful and I even found a few Mallards wading within the rapidly flowing water.

Mountain ridge beyond the Popo Agie River

Mallards in the Popo Agie River

Well, enough with my first impressions of Lander. Let’s move on to my first week!

My first week has not come without many challenges. From getting my background check done, doing required training without having access to the government computers, and weather preventing days in the field (Snow is falling outside as I write). I did have the pleasure of seeing where I will be doing my rangeland monitoring work for a few hours before the roads we were on became too bad to continue driving on (It had rained the day before). The allotment was beautiful, though I have a feeling it will take some time to get acquainted with the unmarked two-track roads. I had the pleasure of bringing a plant back to the office to key out. Turned out it was Astragalus pectinatus (Narrowleaf milkvetch) which another mentor had not found before. Otherwise, I have spent time getting to know the other employees in the office, filing away bills and correspondence, watching videos on vegetation sampling, and completing CPR and first aid training. The next week should entail structural repairs within allotments. I’m excited to be in the field more often and to spend some time on other projects.

– James Noyama
Bureau of Land Management – Lander Field Office                                                 Lander, Wyoming