My time as an intern here at the BLM Missoula field office is coming to an end. As I reflect back on the last eight months that I have spent here, I feel like I have come a long way. I never expected to learn so many new things or love Montana so much to want to stay here. I don’t think I really knew what to expect. All I know is that my expectations have been exceeded. Time had definitely flown by. I find myself wanting to slow time down so I can fully appreciate the last few days that I have left here. I couldn’t have asked for a better place to be.  It is not only one of the most beautiful places I have lived and worked but the people here are amazing. The people make all the difference in the world. They are some of the nicest, most passionate, friendly, funny and caring people I have ever worked with. They really care about the work they are doing and work together as a team. They have been very helpful and patient with me.  I am especially grateful for my mentor John Hill and his sense of humor. John works as the Natural Resources Specialist, but he really is a “jack of all trades”. He was always willing to help someone out on a project or let my coworker and I have a cool experience (like going on a raptor survey,  helping save an injured pelican or counting cows). Not only did I have the chance to work with him surveying sensitive and threatened plants, but I also had the opportunity to work with the foresters, wildlife biologist, archeologist, hydrologist, range specialist and GIS specialist. I really feel like I have had a very well rounded internship. I have learned so much from each individual that I worked with and have made some great friendships. I have had a great experience as a CLM intern, I would recommend it to anyone who is seeking to gain more professional experience! This experience has inspired me to stay in Montana for now, my plan is to return for my second year as a CLM intern. I can’t wait to see how the future unfolds!

Lea Tuttle, CLM Intern

BLM Missoula, MT Field Office

The New Year

I cannot believe how fast time is going! As the New Year approaches I have been reflecting on the past year and how much has changed since then. A year ago I was living in Ohio and working at a Metropolitan park as an operations worker, I never thought that I would be living in Montana working as a CLM intern for the BLM. My experience so far has been wonderful, I couldn’t ask for a better place to be work and live.  This is my last month of my internship at the Missoula Field Office, I cannot believe I have been here for almost eight months. This last month has gone by especially fast with all the holidays. I still managed to accomplish quite a bit during that time. I have been taking online GIS training and managed to make a few maps with the help of my mentor John. I had the opportunity to do a winter bird survey with the Wildlife Biologist and my mentor,which was great especially to spend a day in the field. Other than that I am still working on setting up the herbarium and inventory list of all the specimens that we have. I am also finishing up data entry for all the habitat typing that we did over the summer and some range improvement data entry. It’s nice to have a variety of projects that I can work on and help out where I am needed. I hope I get to learn and experience as much as I can in the next month I am just grateful that I have more time here. Who knows where I will be a year from now, I am excited to see what will unfold in the next year. I just want to have fun doing it!

Winter Projects

Since the field season ended a few weeks ago I have been in the office working on various winter projects. One of my main tasks is to set up our new herbarium. A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit the herbarium at the University of Montana to get a better idea how to process and catalog different plant specimens.  The collections manager at the herbarium was nice enough to show me how to process and catalog different types of plant specimens. Altough our herbarium here at the BLM is much smaller it will be a great resource to have. I am also working on a sensitive and rare plant field guide for next field season,  which will help everyone out in the field to identify and document any sensitive plant species on BLM land. Although I have been working in the office I did get a chance to go out in the field last week. I got to tag along with a few of the foresters to go check on a thinning project that just started. I was really surprised to see how great the project looked, they were taking mostly dead lodgepole pine out of an old growth stand of douglas fir. I also got to see how they fell and buck the trees with big pieces of equipment called feller bunchers. Overall it was a really great experience to see how the process of thinning works and how it can be done in a sustainable way.  I learn something new everyday, this experience has been so awesome and I am grateful to be here for the next two months!

End of the field season

The days are getting shorter, the weather is getting colder and our field season is coming to an end. It has been very hard lately to be excited to go out into the field. This morning the thermometer read 21 degrees farenheit. I am starting to get used to wearing three layers of clothes to work. I always shed a layer within a few minutes of being out in the field.

We are still working on our habitat typing project which is going on week eight. I think everyone is getting burned out from doing the same data collection that we have been doing for the past few months. I do have to say that once I am out in the field I am very happy. Next week will be our last day doing any data collection for habitat typing. Hunting season has started and we can no longer work in those areas. It is kind of a bittersweet feeling, I wish I could continue working outside but I am also ready for a little break from these long ten hour days.  The seasonals will be leaving in a few weeks and I will be in the office doing data entry so I try to appreciate any time I spend out in the field. On our way out today we saw a group of bighorn sheep, I have seen the same group of sheep a few times but they never cease to amaze me! The larch are changing colors and are at their peak right now. It has been amazing to see the season change right in front of my eyes. I am really looking forward to experiencing winter in Montana!

Lea Tuttle,

BLM Missoula, Montana

Habitat Typing

Another month has flown by here in Montana.  The leaves are starting to change and the field season is winding down.  We have been very busy habitat typing for the past month.  We are trying to get as much field work done as the understory fades away and before the snow falls.  We have been working in various habitat types and have found many interesting plants as well as old growth Larch stands.  While working there we found a fern more common to the Pacific Northwest and identified it as Pityrogramma triangularis  or Gold Fern. On the same day we measured and aged old growth Larch (Larix occidentalis) trees. The oldest Larch tree that we aged was over 400 years old and had a diameter of 38 inches. Another group was working further down the road from us and found a Larch that was over 500 years old and had a diameter of 45 inches. It was truly amazing to be standing among trees that old. I also got some great news this month, I am being extended for a few more months here in Missoula, MT! I am very excited and I am looking forward to learning as much as I can.

Another great month!

This month has flown by! I cannot believe it’s almost September. Everyone in the field office has been extremely busy. This field season has been very short due to the heavy snowpack and wet spring, so we are trying to get as much work done as possible. It has also been very dry here in Missoula, MT and fire season is well on it’s way.

We have been splitting our days doing rangeland health and habitat typing. I knew nothing about either subject before this internship. I never thought I would know so much about cows or grazing. Through the process we have been able to do compliance and utilization reports on grazing allotments. We make sure that the leasee is in compliance with the grazing rights and is not over-grazing the area. We walk the allotments looking for cows, salt blocks, water troughs and making sure the fences are in good condition. I can say that I will never look at a pasture the same way…

Habitat typing has been a great learning experience as well. We have been working in an area that is very diverse and has some of the most beautiful meadows that I have ever seen. We are doing this to assess the timber stands in this area. We do this for several reasons; for watershed quality, timber stand improvement and sales, and to know how the area is being affected by the beatle kill. Through the habitat typing I have been able to learn many more native forest plants of Montana and use many new forestry tools.

I look forward to the next two and a half months here at the BLM and I am eager to learn as much as I can from my co-workers.

Lea Tuttle

Wild Montana

This is the best job I have ever had! I can’t believe that I actually get paid to explore some of the most beautiful places in the U.S. To date Montana has provided me with an unbelievable experience! I look forward to each and every day in the field as well as in the office. My mentor is very open and enourages me to learn and get involved with as much as I possibly can, which I, of course, take  advantage of. I have had the opportunity to explore some of Montana’s wild and remote BLM owned lands of which each have their very own unique habitat. My days consist of clamoring up  steep mountains sides while seeking out Montana’s native and sensitive plants; each day is an adventure. In the past month I have learned how to habitat type, perform water rights, and assess rangeland utilization and compliance. During this time I’ve also had the chance to learn how to bore a tree, use a laser to determine tree height and a clinometer to determine slope. I can’t say that my co-worker Layla and I didn’t have some trouble using the laser (I guess it helps if you look through it the right way!)  I work with some of the most interesting characters, from all over the country; they are a constant source of knowledge. They have been successful in teaching me all about native grasses as well as forest forbs of the West.  As usual I am looking forward to what the next couple of months will bring!

My fist month in Montana

My first month with the BLM in Missoula, Montana has flown by! I have learned so much in the last month, and have seen some beautiful parts of Montana. The primary task that we have been working on is inventorying a sensitive plant species Keeled Bladderpod (Physaria carinata). This sensitive plant only occurs on very steep, south facing slopes so I have been getting a very good workout as well as finding the Bladderpod! One of our other main tasks is vegetation monitoring. We have mostly worked on pace transects and in a few weeks we will be doing Daubenmire transects. I have always thought that grasses are some of the hardest plants to identify and have wanted to be able to look at a grass and be able to identify it. Well I am almost there! I can identify most of the native grasses in this region. My co-workers have really been patient with me and have shown me some of the main characteristics to look for. We also had the opportunity to take a workshop on native grasses which helped as well.

Last week I had the opportunity to plant Aspen trees at Garnet Ghost Town, an old mining town northeast of Missoula. The BLM had done a thinning project in the past few years to protect against fire damage to the ghost town. They recently created an interpretative trail where the the thinning project had been, and wanted to populate the area with native trees. The seeds were collected a year ago and were sent to a local nursery to grow! A thousand trees were planted that day, and we have more to plant in the following weeks.  I am looking forward to seeing what it will look like in a few years.

Bitteroot in bloom

Bitteroot in bloom

I also had the opportunity to go back to a few areas where we found Bitteroot, Montana’s state flower in bloom! They are such small flowers you really have to seek them out. Once they bloom they loose their fleshy leaves and only the flower is present. We also found more Camas in bloom, a culturally important plant in this area. On our way to this area we were lucky enough to see a black bear cub and a great gray owl.



This experienced has already enriched my knowledge and life, who knows what the next months will bring!

My first week in Montana!

May 26, 2011

This was my first week of work at the BLM field office in Missoula, Montana! I could not have asked to be in a better place. My boyfriend and I finally arrived in Montana last week after the 34 hour drive from Ohio. We had the chance to see some beautiful parts of the country as we drove across the U.S. When we reached Montana I was blown away by the grandeur of the mountains, and the beauty of the land. I knew immediately that this was the perfect fit for me.
During my first week of work I had the opportunity to learn some new field techniques, identify some sensitive and culturally important plants, and go on a raptor survey! All that in one week, I cannot imagine what I will learn in the next five months.
My first assignment was to go to an area called Rattlesnake Gulch, to find Keeled Bladderpod (Physaria carinata) a sensitive plant that only occurs in Montana. It is primarily found in Granite and Beaverhead Counties, on south facing slopes that are made up of calcareous limestone. As we hiked up the very steep slopes, Layla my co-worker spotted the Bladderpod. It is such a small plant that you could very easily overlook it, thankfully it is in bloom and is much easier to identify. We continued climbing up the slopes marking the lowest and highest points where we found the Bladderpod on our handheld GPS. As we climbed up to the top of the slope at 5700 feet we noticed that the Bladderpod no longer occurred and the soil had changed. We made note of this and started to make our way back down the mountain. About halfway down, Layla paused to take a picture Basalmroot in bloom that covered the hillside. As she was taking the picture we heard a strange noise coming from where she was standing. She looked down and to her surprise saw a rattlesnake near her feet. She notified me and we quickly and cautiously made our way back down to our vehicle. Now we know why that it is called Rattlesnake Gulch. When we returned to the field office we asked if it was common to see rattlesnakes in that area. To my surprise many of my co-workers have not seen a rattlesnake around here in years. It was a reminder for Layla and I to be alert and aware of our surroundings while working in the field.

Keeled Bladderpod

Throughout the week I had the opportunity to learn some new field techniques and had the chance to identify some native plants of Montana. My mentor John took us out to an area near the Blackfoot River to find Bitterroot, Montana’s state flower. We found a few small patches that were not in bloom in a grassland near the river. Along our walk John pointed out many native species found in this area; Idaho Fescue, Rough Fescue, Lupine, Larkspur, Shooting Star and Camas. Camas is a culturally important plant that has been used for thousands of years, as a food source by the indigenous people of the Northwest.
As part of our training John showed us how to operate the Trimble GPS that we will be using to map sensitive plants and monitor invasive species. This is such a great tool to have out in the field and will help us give more accurate information while we are collecting our data. To end the week we had the opportunity to go on a raptor survey with the wildlife biologist. We counted all raptors that we saw in a 55 mile stretch. We saw kestrels, red-tailed hawks, ospreys and bald eagles! This has been an amazing first week and I am looking forward to learning as much as I can from my mentor and co-workers at the BLM!

CLM Intern, Lea Tuttle Missoula Field Office