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.