All the leaves have fallen, as the snow returns to the mountaintops; my time here in Alaska has come to a close. It has been a pact summer of traveling, staying in the remote wilderness, native villages, and cabins all over Alaska. One does not truly get a sense of the seemingly endless amounts of wilderness until you are up here and in it. Alaska stands alone. I still struggle trying to conceptualize how all of this land can be managed in an appropriate and efficient manner. I guess, one aspect I have learned is that Alaska is allowed to be wild, in the sense that there is so much public land it is hard to evaluate and monitor every piece year after year. For many places, it requires extensive planning and resources to travel to monitor a spot for an extended period. Often times it includes taking planes, helicopters, boats, snow-machines, or ATVs to reach these areas. Consequently, with such low population density, fire regimes have been preserved, there are fewer invasive species (as of now), and human disturbance is minimal. This allows nature to hold on to its wild unique qualities and ecosystem dynamics, which has been lost in most places around the world.
I have thoroughly enjoyed my time spent exploring and learning numerous ecosystems Alaska has to offer. Through this internship, I have been able to stretch my knowledge outside of just trees, too a multitude of plants, lichens, and mosses. Alaska has also provided some of the juiciest, delectable blue berries I have ever tasted, as well as a plethora of new berries to try including one of my favorites, the cloudberry. It has presented a ton of new opportunities to challenge myself, over come obstacles, and connect with some great people. Alaska has me constantly turning my head to look at the next mountain peak, constantly looking out the window for the next glimpse of wildlife, and constantly asking questions about the unique environmental attributes. I have cherished every moment serving as a conservation and land management intern up here, down to the last mosquito. Until next time Alaska.




Summer Project

My main project this summer has been to inventory a boreal forest in Tanacross, Alaska. There was a big blow down that happened a few years ago, so our objective was to go in and figure out how much wood could be harvested. We set up a stewardship agreement with the village of Tanacross, so that they could harvest the wood and use it for their bio-digester. Tanacross presented a few challenges along the way, and I have definitely had my ups and downs working this site. From the get-go, on the second day of work, I twisted my ankle scrambling over the blown down trees. While resting my ankle, we had a bigger issue. The third day of work, my fellow CLM intern, Katlyn Williard, and me realized that our plots in the GPS were off by about 500 feet each. We did not have any service in Tanacross, and had to call a BLM forester in California to resolve the issue. It was a slow process going, back and forth, from a spot we could get service to a spot with a distinguishable data point, but we finally got the problem resolved and were able to begin work again.

There are so many, intricate mysteries to the site and stories untold. Working at Tanacross is a constant look in the past. We are constantly finding relics of the time people spent in these forests. The site was disturbed in the 1940’s and used as a camp while building the Alaskan highway. From the satellite imagery, one can see where the old camp used to be by the way the forest is fragmented and compartmentalized. Working the site has me constantly curious about what times were like building the Alaskan highway.

The last thing I will say about Tanacross is that it is stunningly beautiful. The Alaska Mountain Range paints the backdrop of our site. I have seen it change from snowcapped peaks, to luscious greens in the summer, to vibrant yellow in the fall, back to being snowcapped as the fall slips into winter. Since tanacross is so far North, the northern lights are out most nights when the clouds clear, and I have been lucky to see them these past couple weeks bright and glorious.


The Adventure Begins


It was a long journey from Northern California all the way up to Anchorage, Alaska. Fifty-four hours of driving to be exact, covering 2,968 miles. The mountains exploded immediately as I entered Canada and never stopped all the way up to Alaska. Each day of my journey I saw a bald eagle, as if I was being shepherded up to the north country. I also saw six bears (one grizzly), one red fox, two coyotes, three moose, one porcupine, three caribou, and one golden eagle. It truly was an epic journey bringing me much needed solitude and bliss.

Working with Eric Geisler, at the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, I was excited on my first day to learn about my assignments and projects for the summer. There would be plenty of time to talk about that though, it was time to pile in the truck and head down to Homer for the week to do National Resources Conservation Service training. It was a gorgeous drive down to the end of the Kenai Peninsula. I was able to learn about some of the Alaskan vegetation, eat fresh-caught cod, and watch a small otter float on its back, paws and arms crossed, pushing itself through the water.

The adventure continues this week. We drove up to Fairbanks, passing by The Denali Range and Denali National Park. In Fairbanks we got a bit muddy doing ATV training, which was such a blast! It was also a great opportunity to check out my main study site for the summer time in the tiny town of Tanacross. My site was a predominately spruce/aspen stand surrounded by yet another spectacular snow-capped mountain range. There is no escaping the magnificent and massive mountains here, so needless to say I am very excited to see what sorts of adventures I get into this summer. Until next time…

Robbie Tepp. Bureau of Land Management. Anchorage, AK