Land Management and the Act of Monitoring: Ideals and Realities

Anya Tyson
Range and Wildlife Biology BLM Intern

August in Buffalo, Wyoming: the weather has heated up as my duties as a range intern are winding down. The once uncharacteristically green range has finally cured into shades of yellow and toast. I am now “on wildlife time” here at the office, and I will soon see what the biologists have in store for me.

As an appropriate transition between range and wildlife work, my fellow intern and I spent a fair amount of time designing and implementing a riparian vegetation monitoring effort on BLM land on the Tongue River. Currently, much of length of the river in the parcel is leased for grazing and calving in winter months, but the area is also a BLM recreation site and home to a decent density of breeding birds. In the future, grazing practices will likely change in hopes that riparian vegetation will respond favorably (reduction of non-natives, increased recruitment of woody species, increased vertical structure) and wildlife habitat will be improved. In the planning phases of our monitoring efforts, Miriam, my fellow intern, even had a phone conversation with John Willoughby from the Grand Canyon. Monitoring does seem to be somewhat of an experiment; it is difficult to know just how appropriate and representative the data you choose to collect will be. (John Willoughby recommended at least two years of pilot data, which unfortunately, in this case, is just not that useful for pertinent management objectives).

This project was trying at times (i.e. try driving ~50 t-posts into the ground as both sweat and mosquitoes saturate the air closest to your body!), but extremely worthwhile. In my office, a Scarlet Tanager and a Vermillion Flycatcher, both seriously pretty birds, are centered on a poster that proclaims “Riparian Areas: Nature’s Lifelines.” Though the backdrop of the poster is the San Pedro river in southeastern Arizona in this case, I know that the Tongue River, even states away to the north, must look remarkably similar from a bird’s eye view: a ribbon of green, a crucial highway to the mountains. Earlier this summer, before my internship began, I rafted Desolation and Gray canyons on the Green River in Utah. I had just taken Ornithology as my last course at college, and I was ecstatic to see Lazuli Buntings, Bullock’s Orioles, Western Tanagers and many other birds both nesting and cruising up the waterway. It turns out I desperately love rivers and birds; I truly hope that this monitoring program and its effects on management play even a small part in increasing the numbers of neotropical migrants and breeding birds that utilize habitat on the Tongue River.


The month of August is upon us here in Pinedale, and we are already three months into our Seeds of Success (SOS) internship. As SOS interns, we have amassed an expansive amount of seed from numerous species and populations within the Pinedale Field Office (PFO). We have observed a variety of different phenotypes from the species we have collected. A plant phenotype that our bodies have especially noticed, during our various collections, is the different heights of the plants. We have found, that each plant population requires several different body alignments for a most efficient harvest. Some of these positions can be quite physically challenging. However, if one prepares for the aerobic and anaerobic challenges in the field; the aches and pains of a full day’s work can be alleviated and avoided.

8 Recommended Practice Positions


The Jumping Frog                                             The Tired Harvester

Fabaceae Astragulus sericoleus                             Ranunculacae  Delphinium Bicolor


The Spread Raptor

          Polygonaceae Polygonum bistortides


The Bridge                                                      The Prayer

Asteraceae Achillea millefolium         Scrophulariaceae Penstemon humilis 

The Sleeper


The Arrow

Polemoniacae Pholox Hoodii


The Proposal

Asteraceae Stenotus acaulis

WARNING: These positions should be done at your own risk. Failure to do them correctly could result in serious harm or death. The following exercises are not approved by the Bureau of Land Management, Chicago Botanical Gardens or Conservation Land Management Program. 

 We also suggest taking up yoga, in addition to practicing these positions to your own mantra every morning or evening. We have found that our rigorous collection exercises have significantly increased not only the amount of seed that we pick every day but also our mind, body and souls. We would love to hear any input on any other valuable hints to other techniques to enhance our seed collecting.

Thank You,

The Pinedale Team

There and Back Again, Part Two

Training in the Grand Canyon, one of the great wonders of the natural world, was one incredible experience; meeting our wonderful bosses Krissa and Marian as well as ~75 fellow interns, learning to key flora of the West, watching a triple rainbow spread from rim to rim as well as breathtakingly beautiful sunsets every night…the list goes on and on. It was very special to be introduced to this beautiful and sacred place, not as a tourist, but as a biologist. The trip back was a bit nostalgic, but was still gorgeous and aided by waking up on the 4th of July in Canyonlands Ntl. Park. It was also a challenge transitioning back into the office workplace (no windows!), but we were kept busy with projects. I finished managing the Government Policy and Results Act on Invasive Animals spreadsheet, allowing data for FY10 to be entered. From there, I picked out all marine/brackish species in ocean and coastal parks from that list and combined them with the species that I had found in the Watershed Condition Assessment reports. Those lists were then combined with data Brittany had acquired from the Nature Conservancy. Our next hurdle is to tackle NP Species as well as data from the USGS. Once we have our comprehensive list, we will be turning it into a report and a website for our final project.

The week I got to spend doing field work in Rocky Mountain Ntl. Park was literally and figuratively, a breath of fresh air. Technically, I was a volunteer with the Rocky Mountain Inventory and Monitoring Network, spending my days outside (what a dream!) and my nights in the research dorms right outside of Estes Park. I got to assist with montane and alpine wetland sampling; locating existing well plots, as well as installing new ones. We assessed water quality, soil and site characteristics, and vegetation species cover and composition at each plot. Three days were spent in gorgeous Moraine Park and one day was spent at 12,000 in an alpine wet meadow, where I was able to marvel at the rugged beauty of life above the tree line. This consisted of a 20 degree temperature drop, a fabulous array of wildflowers, snow-capped peaks, a herd of over 60 elk, as well as the ever-so-consistent thunderstorms that come through the alpine every afternoon. After that fabulous introduction to the alpine, I cannot get enough, and even brought my mother there when she came to visit.  We got to see another large herd of elk, a small colony of yellow-bellied marmots, multiple pika, and many a songbird.

Now back from fieldwork, Brittany and I have had to strap in and make ourselves experts on our topics that we will be presenting at the International Conference on Aquatic Invasive Species at the end of the month in San Diego. My poster takes the macro approach, titled: “Managing Aquatic Invasive Species in Ocean, Coastal, and Great Lakes Parks”. It’s quite daunting knowing that we will be representing our agency – quite the responsibility and privilege! We will be attending the conference for 4 days of the 9 days that we are there, so we will have a few days to explore and play in the ocean. Brittany and I both have friends in the area, so it will be a real treat to see them and have backstage passes to the city!

Still loving life in Fort Collins! Until next time…

Chenie Prudhomme
National Park Service
Fort Collins, CO

Fire! Fire!

California is famous for its wildfires. I always thought that only Southern California had the big ones, but maybe that’s all they show on the news. As it turns out, a couple of weeks ago there was a huge lightning storm within my field office boundary. That night and the next day, the BLM Fire crews were working like crazy to put out all of the smoking juniper trees. Unfortunately, with a ton of fires on their plate, one small fire started to take off. From a single tree, it burned 8 acres, then 50, then 150, and the next thing we knew, 11,000 acres of public and private land had been burnt. It would have been much more without the hundreds of firefighters working night and day for 2 weeks to contain it. I bring up this fire because it’s one more subject out here that I’m gaining knowledge in. If I weren’t working for the BLM through the CBG, I wouldn’t have had this experience! I can confidently say that before this, the biggest wildland fire I’d seen was a couple-acre prairie burn. Now, I wasn’t up-close and personal with this fire for safety reasons, but I got to see how different federal and state agencies come together to fight fire, the logistics involved, and how the landscape and weather affects how a fire burns. Tomorrow I’m going to the site to view what the habitat looks like now.  The fire actually burned up a portion of one of the juniper-cut areas that I flagged, so it will be neat to compare the before and after.

Other than that, some highlights of the last month or so include: vegetation monitoring on a fuels reduction site (juniper cut) 2 years post-cut, seed collecting in the picturesque sagebrush-steppe, and learning how to do Pygmy Rabbit surveys. I recently spent a couple of days inventorying a juniper-cut project site for sensitive wildlife species such as raptors, sandhill cranes, and sage grouse and really enjoyed it. Also, last night from 9pm-3am I helped the local Fish & Wildlife refuge with waterfowl banding; we netted ducks from airboats, brought them back to shore, and banded them. I had the time of my life!

I had one more work experience that is worth mentioning. Earlier this summer, I was hiking along a stream to flag an aspen stand on BLM land. I was only about 30 minutes walking distance from where my vehicle was parked near the highway when I stumbled upon a marijuana garden! The evidence was obvious, even for someone who didn’t know what signs to look for yet (we were having safety training and a marijuana garden presentation the next day, ironically): depressions in the ground with a few seedlings in each, fertilizer pellets in them, and black irrigation hosing to each depression. And I could see hundreds of these from where I was standing! I quickly snapped a few pictures and called my mentor who told me to high-tail it back to the truck. I had a long talk with our Law Enforcement Officer about what I’d found, and the next week they took a team out to raid the area and found nearly 10,000 plants. Wow! If I took anything away from this experience, I learned that there are definitely safety hazards when it comes to managing public lands – but I think I was prepared enough and equipped enough to handle the situation safely.

After a couple of months in tiny Alturas, California, the place is really growing on me. The wildlife work is exciting each day and the small-town feel is kind of comforting. I’m glad I still have a few more months!

Kristen Linner, BLM Alturas, CA

Still no aliens? What a rip-off!

I may have to do more investigating on the whole government cover-up ordeal, but I did manage to find out that BLM is not a source for information. Much has happened since my last post. As far as the internship goes, the Sand Dune Lizard project is almost complete for the season. The idea was to catch at least one lizard in each square mile in the Lesser Prairie Chicken/Sand Dune Lizard Habitat Expansion Corridor. If we catch one, the oil and gas companies cannot drill in that section. We managed to complete 9 new areas, which was almost double last year’s account. We used pitfall traps and stumbling upon them to obtain a lizard.  Now that the other interns are going back to school, it is up to me to catch juvenile Sand Dune Lizards in critical areas, such as herbicide sprayed areas.  I spent most of this week in one area looking for the nascent Sceloporus, and still haven’t caught one. Once I finish with the lizards I am able to create and begin my own wildlife project. It will be evaluating the bird communities in areas sprayed with Tebuthiuron (a general herbicide used to deplete Shinnery Oak in flat open habitats usually occupied by various grasses) and areas that are not treated. The idea is that areas with more grasses is better ultimately for the Lesser Prairie Chicken, but the more areas to hide (in the grass), the more diversity.  I am also to survey for insects (potential Sand Dune Lizard food) and reptiles, basically whatever I happen to see that day. I will be doing line transects for about 250 meters (five stops within for about 10-15 minutes to survey) and the line will be at least 200 meters apart from one another. All in all, I’m getting excited to start my project, but these dang lizards are holding me up.

Also, it was great to meet a bunch of you at the GRCA workshop and I look forward to checking out everyone’s posts on here as the year progresses. Have fun everybody!

Grant Izzo
Roswell Field Office-BLM