Wyoming in the Rearview

I’ve officially been labeled a short-timer here at the Buffalo Field Office in Wyoming.  As I prepare to head back to the Pacific Northwest I’m finding it hard to think of words to describe my time in Wyoming.  Ever since I arrived here I’ve struggled to full accept that the Powder River Basin is energy country.  Energy production is the reason I have a job, the reason everyone in my office has a job, the reason my lights come on at night, and the economic backbone for the majority of this beautiful state.  Yet I still can’t shake the voices of my environmental philosophy professors preaching the horrors of exactly what’s going on in the area I work.  I do not support the thousands of miles of two track roads, the countless produced water reservoirs, the fragmentation of habitat, the draw down of aquifers, the possible extinction of the sage grouse, or the risk of selenium tainting the Powder River – and yet I think I’m starting realize I can only lament so much when I don’t have a better solution.  The reality is I enjoy electricity, I enjoy driving my car, and I enjoy having a job.  I guess all I can really do is observe how things are done here currently and continue working to be part of better solutions in the future. 

My job itself has been a great experience and I have learned a lot of new skills.  For the last couple of weeks I have been working on a project to sample soils in the reservoirs filled with water that comes from natural gas production.  I think I would have enjoyed this project just as much as an eight year old child.  Basically I’m getting payed to play in the dirt.  Using a hand auger is messy, especially when used in the bottom of a reservoir.  I come home everyday with my jeans ruined and my hands smelling like a vulgar mix of mud and cow poop, but it’s fun work.   Hopefully though all my dirty days will produce some valuable information that will influence how reclamation is done in the Powder River Basin. 

As I think  I stated in my last blog, the best part of this experience continues to be exploring the beauty this part of the country has to offer.  I spent the last weekend basking in the glory of autumn in Yellowstone.  It’s hard to complain about walking the boardwalks around Old Faithful without the yammer of a thousand people or standing alone at a view point over the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.  It may also be worth mentioning that we saw a very large grizzly bear near Yellowstone Lake and two wolves snacking on a carcass in the Lamar Valley.  Besides Yellowstone I’ve also gotten to travel to Grand Teton and Glacier Nation Parks in addition to the time spent in Big Horn Mountains a couple miles west of here. 

I’m going to miss Wyoming.  The sky, the landscapes, the geology, my friends, and co-workers are all things I’m going to look back on fondly.   The internship has been a wonderful experience personally and professionally.  I could not of have gotten my next position without the skills I’ve learned in Wyoming. 

Jacob Dyste

Multiple Use Management

The past five months has been defined by an amazing assortment of experiences. I have participated in so many fun and stimulating activities, ranging from participating in archeological digs to compliance monitoring at Burning Man. I am still processing the Burning Man experience. It may yet take several weeks for me to fully form coherent thoughts regarding the event. Needless to say it was fun and I will never forget it. Burning Man not only was a fun experience, but also educational. The duration of my internship has mainly focused on land management activities that are centered on conservation efforts. During Burning Man I was able to witness first-hand how the BLM manages large scale recreation events on public land. I learned that it is a complicated process in which multiple organizations must participate and requires intensive coordination efforts and inter-agency cooperation. The experience emphasized for me how the BLM truly is a “multiple-use” agency.

Another use of public lands that I became quite familiar with was made possible through my work with the range department in our field office. Having helped with many range projects, I gained a wide variety of experiences with the methods used to monitor the health of land used for grazing. The reality of management for ranchers and cattle grazing became very clear during these experiences with the range department.

During my internship I have truly witnessed the wide range of efforts the BLM makes to manage land for sustained use for ranchers, recreationists, and the flora and fauna that inhabit them. Before I had participated in this internship, I had only a vague idea of what kind of effort is being made to protect our public lands. These experiences have given me a renewed respect for the efforts that the BLM makes. Because of this time I have developed the desire to participate in the future in making these efforts the most effective possible, so that our public lands may be managed in the best and most effective ways possible.

A Wyoming Summer to Remember

It’s hard to believe that three months have flown by since the CLM training workshop at the Grand Canyon. Thanks again to Krissa and Marian for organizing such a great week! I really enjoyed myself and learned a lot.

My Geographic Information Systems (GIS) internship with the Rock Springs, Wyoming BLM field office has afforded me many opportunities to learn new skills in GIS software. Most of my time is spent inside working on various small projects for numerous employees throughout the office. One day I may be working on a map showing the spatial relationship between oil and gas wells and sage grouse core areas for the Minerals and Lands department and the next I’ll be working on creating a reference map of Herd Management Areas for the Wild Horse Specialist to use out in the field. It is nice to have such a mix of assignments.

I’ve become more experienced in digitizing geographic features, as well as in general data management. Over the course of three months, I’ve assisted in geographic data acquisition, organization, analysis and maintenance. I’ve also become more experienced in the manipulation and creation of shapefiles and have done extensive work in readying sage grouse and pygmy rabbit datasets for further analysis by our wildlife biologists.

My cubicle workspace

While office life may not parallel the glamor and excitement of field work, it has helped me improve my computer skills and hone my interpersonal skills in a professional environment. I’m especially thankful for my mentor, Doug, who has imparted his vast GIS knowledge with patience and enthusiasm throughout my time here. He describes himself as “eccentric” and brings a welcome boost of levity to the office environment with his humorous perspective and playful attitude.

Doug on a normal day

Using a Trimble GPS to ground truth features in the field

Along with indoor activity, I also manage to get outside occasionally. In addition to accompanying my mentor for some GPS ground-truthing work, I’ve also been fortunate enough to assist various field crews from the recreation, wildlife and Seeds of Success divisions here.

Folgers coffee beans? Nope, my collection of chokecherries for the Seeds of Success program.

Some memorable moments from the field include: Sitting by a pristine creek for a lunch break and enjoying the scenery and perfect weather, trying to winch a truck out of a muddy sinkhole, walking fencelines inspecting them for sage grouse “strikes” in the foothills of the Wind River Mountains, watching wild horses and bull elk from atop White Mountain (just west of Rock Springs) and seeing two red foxes dart in front of the truck on the way to check a recreation site.

A very stuck truck!

Two fellow CLM interns enjoying a beautiful day for planting trees on National Public Lands Day.

I also had the opportunity to participate in my field office’s National Public Lands Day (NPLD) event a couple of weeks ago. Myself and other CLM interns helped to direct and assist nearly 100 high school students and teachers in planting over 950 native trees along a local riparian corridor. It was a rewarding service project and an enjoyable outing with my fellow interns.

Fall hiking with my roommates

Speaking of the other interns here, we have grown close as friends and share a camaraderie that extends beyond the workday. Although you might not guess it from a glimpse of Rock Springs itself, there is no shortage of places to go and things to do here in southwest Wyoming. Weekends are always jam-packed with fun, adventurous activities. Over the course of the summer, I’ve been hiking, camping, backpacking, road biking, mountain biking, swimming, rock climbing, tubing down rivers and playing in sand dunes. It’s been great to enjoy such varied activities with a fun group of people!

Fellow CLM intern Deanna sledding down a giant sand dune

Myself on a backpacking trip in the Wind River Mountains

I look forward to my last month here as a CLM intern and eagerly anticipate the remaining adventures that await me!

Melissa Buchmann
Rock Springs, WY
Bureau of Land Management

Start to Finish

It is hard to believe that 6 months has gone by already! In that short time I learned the SOS protocol from mapping suitable populations in the beginning all the way to the end product at the Bend Seed Extractory. It is the first season of SOS for BLM Surprise and my project was SOS from start to finish. I really enjoyed working with BLM volunteers Ed and Wendi Lutz who have a ranch over in Nevada about 25 miles from the office. They are doing germination studies of native plants and small scale garden studies. They really kept spirits high even on scouting trips which weren’t so successful and on days where the weather was not ideal.  Our trip to Bend was made exciting by the fact that we got to see our collections at every stage of the process. The workers at Bend don’t just stand there at a machine and push seed through-they have to be inventive for those tough collections that can’t go through the machines. We had a collection of Balsamorhiza which consisted of mostly flower heads and they put the entire collection in a wire mesh tumbler that reminded me of the things they use at the grocery store for raffle tickets and drawings (see picture). Turn the crank to mix them up and the achenes drop through to a collection bin.  We watched as the workers pulled seed out of the brown paper bag I helped put it into and then feed it into the hopper of a deawning machine and see the seeds come out one end and all the awns out another. We saw x-ray photographs taken at this stage that show the ratio of filled seed to empty-our Thurber’s needle grass looked excellent! We saw material that looked like lawn clippings being fed into a Clipper and watched as the machine sorted the material out by weight separating seed from straw-my mentor Kathryn and co-intern Maike really enjoyed this!  The neatest thing was seeing the package of seed with our office code on the label along with information on seed purity and quality. I enjoyed the small town of Cedarville even without the services one is used to in more populated areas and I really enjoyed seeing some of the beautiful back country of northwest Nevada and northeast California. I saw, for the first time ever, wild mustang and bighorn sheep and I got to camp at High Rock Canyon which requires a 4×4 with adequate clearance and at least 8-ply tires to get through safely. I may not have had the adventure of a lifetime but I certainly accomplished my goal of working on a project from the beginning and seeing it through to the end and I call that success.