I’m into the fourth month of my CLM internship and have just sent out the last of our seed to the Bend processing facility. Apart from seed collection I’ve been working on various weed control projects within our management area.

 You might not consider weed control to be the most glamorous of our duties, but it is an important part of land management.  Nationwide, invasive weeds in pastures and farmland cost an estimated $33 billion per year (Cal-IPC 2011).  Noxious weeds have invaded 17 million acres of public rangelands in the West (Selected Noxious Weeds of Northeastern California 1998).  These invasive plants crowd out both native and economically important species and significantly degrade wildlife habitat.

Here is a list of a couple of the little nasties I’ve been helping to eradicate from our management area: Centaurea solstitialis (yellow star thistle), Ditrichia graveolens (stinkwort), and Tamarix ramosissima (tamarisk).

Noxious weeds are managed using a combination of three approaches: manual/mechanical removal, biological control, and the use of herbicides.  Usually the herbicide is applied using backpack sprayers but on rare occasions aerial spraying is implemented for large infestations.

Approximately 350 acres of public land (infested with tamarisk) was sprayed this September in the Panoche Hills of California’s Interior Coast Range.  “This marks the first time that aerial herbicide application has been conducted on BLM land in California” (Dianna Brink, BLM California State Office Range and Weed Program lead).  For more information check out the link below.


 It was pretty neat to watch from the ground.  Hopefully this method will succeed where previous ground level treatments have failed.  

-Aaron Thom

Hollister, CA Field Office




Nobody Loves the Chaparral

When a co-worker bluntly told me, “Nobody loves the chaparral,” it stopped me in my tracks. If this was true, then what was she trying to protect, and why had I moved across the country to help!?  A few months in, I think I finally understand.

Is the chaparral full of unique and interesting plants that play a vital role in the landscape?


Should it be preserved and protected from development?

Of course, silly question


Is bushwhacking through dense chaparral a challenging and often disorienting task?


Now, don’t get me wrong. Crawling through the maze can be great.  I pretend I’m a contestant on The Amazing Race or playing a life-size video game.   Other times though, it has a face only a mother could love and I crave a more welcoming habitat.  When my relationship with the chaparral was at its thorniest I wrote some poems to help work things out.

Field Days

Itchy, prickly burs

Goat grass in my underwear

Missing my gaiters


Star Thistle

Shiny yellow heads

Taunt me. Crouched. Weed wrench in hand.

Waiting for revenge.


A Mother’s Love

Dense leaves, sharp stems shield

Tiny gems in a loving

Embrace. Chaparral.


Over and out.

Sophia Weinmann, El Dorado Hills, CA

My internship in Arizona!

I have been in Safford, AZ with the Bureau of Land Management since May. The past 5 months have been challenging, thought provoking, and educational. Being in the southwest has opened my eyes to a whole new world. This ecosystem is fragile and needs extreme care to remain functioning. Grazing has had an enormous impact on the ecosystem and I feel people need to work on how to manage this more efficiently. Being here has made me question the ways things have been done in the past and what can be done to try and heal the landscape and stop degrading more land. I have realized the importance of water and have never been so grateful for a thunderstorm in my life!

I have grown professionally and learned a great deal about working with the federal government. Working with people that may not have the same views or habits can make for a very challenging work environment. I have learned how to work with these people and how to make suggestions without getting into an argument. I would not suggest living and working with the same person if it can be avoided.

I have gained a lot of skills in plant identification and knowledge on things to make days in the field a little easier. Staying organized and taking good field notes is extremely important! I have sharpened my grass identification skills and have really started to enjoy grasses. They are so unique and interesting! I suggest everyone take a closer look at grasses (under and microscope) I wasn’t a big fan of using a microscope until I started this internship. To be honest I kind of avoided them like the plague if at all possible. I was so amazed when I really started looking at flowering grasses under a dissecting scope! I will be getting one of my own sometime in the near future.

Despite the lack of rain and the very hot climate I have seen some gorgeous scenery and some very cool plants! I suggest that everyone participating in this internship spend some time on the weekends exploring! I did a lot of roadside botany and birding on the weekends! This really helped me learn my flora and fauna!

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.

Fire assessment

In my short ecologically-oriented career, I have worked a fair amount in burnt areas. I spent one summer doing vegetation sampling in north-central WA in the Tripod Fire, a huge, intense burn in an overstocked, fire-suppressed forest. The level of destruction was incredible. Some areas were absolutely scorched! What really surprised me was how beautiful the burns could be sometimes, and I have been reminded of that to some extent lately as I have been out CLMing. Lately, we have been assessing the intensity of very recent fires. This is the first time I have been in such recent burns (a month or so after the fire), and I was surprised to see things (e.g. desert peach and a buckwheat (I think it was elatum)) already resprouting! But again, I was struck by how beautiful the burns could be. It brings out a different kind of starkness and makes the landscape seem even vaster than it already does. It’s also fascinating to see how the fire skipped some areas despite burning everything else around them, and it makes me wish I had taken more fire ecology classes in school. It all adds another level of appreciation to the desert in particular and the natural world in general, and I hope I get to do more work with fires in the future.

Goodbye to friends.. Hello to new projects

    I’ve just made it into the 4th month of my internship and only have four weeks left until I make the journey back to my home state. Things have been busy lately and I welcome the change of scenery and projects. This last week, two of the seasonals that I worked with for the last 4 months left to go back to their homes. I will admit, it was a little sad. When I moved 22 hours across the country I knew full well that I would know absolutely no one. Over the last few months, the two wildlife seasonals, the other CBG intern and myself formed a family. A dysfunctional one at times, but none the less, a family.

Now its just me and Cory, the other CBG intern. With the loss of the others, our objectives and projects have shifted. For the first time all summer,we have the freedom to  plan our own schedules, which I really enjoy. For the past 3 weeks Cory and I have been working on a artificial water project concerning the importance and placement of wildlife escape ramps and we will continue to survey local cattle troughs to collect data. We have also been given the opportunity to work on some riparian projects as well, which we are both excited about. I’m anxious as this field season comes to an end and look forward to what the future hold for all of us.

Final Blog

When I first began my internship in eastern Montana I thought that five months was a very long time, but nearing the end now it seems to have flown by. Having submersed myself in plant identification and seed collection of species in the area I have come to appreciate the diversity offered even in a place that is not so kind to plant growth. I’ve been told that because of the heavier than normal rainfall the landscape stayed green much longer and plants flowered in places with abundance not usually seen. For this I am grateful to have observed, because when the heat and dryness of August arrived it truly became a struggle for plants everywhere here. Add to the weather the grasshoppers and the fact that the cattle graze EVERYWHERE; I was sometimes amazed that there were any seeds to collect.
Living in a smaller town is a different experience, and though I have lived in small towns before, they never are alike. People definitely have to make their own fun here while trying to participate in whatever is being offered in the locale. A part of that fun is exploring the immediate/distant area with road trips. I totally enjoyed traveling to and exploring Glacier National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Custer State Park, Rushmore National Monument, Theodore Roosevelt National Park and parts of Idaho on my time off.
I am grateful to have this time because being out of my comfort zone I was able to see life from a different perspective. I not only learned a lot about botany, but also about others and myself. I now feel fairly confident in my botanical skills and look forward in using it in future endeavors. Life truly is an adventure, and you never quite know what is around the next turn. The trick is to enjoy the ride.

The Battle for Monvero

I stepped out of the air-conditioned cab of my BLM vehicle. Heat surrounded me. I lost my breath. The suffocating heat of summer was asphyxiating. I was nervously anticipating the call of duty, the heat of the day, and the mission before us- but it had to be done. Our mission was to defeat the alien invaders from their newly colonized landing atop one of the rarest ecosystems on the planet. We were to attack at high noon.
The Monvero Dunes are located in the mountainous western boundary of California’s central valley (Tumie Hills area). The Monvero area comprises a number of small dune islands located on the summits of Monocline ridge, a jagged ridge that hugs the eastern rim of the mountains. The vegetation is unique to the zone. A unique array of plants has colonized these dune islands, including several species native to the Mojave Desert, hundreds of miles away. The dunes are also home to the rare and endangered kangaroo rat and Monvero beetle.
These species are now suffering the overthrow of their precious communities and robbery of their resources by a colony of aliens, which is why we were here now: to remove the aliens by force and restore the precious balance of life that existed before the invasion.
We grabbed our weapons of choice and silently ascended the steep sandy slopes. To our dismay, we saw that we were highly outnumbered, but the unsuspecting aliens were armed only with small spines. We begged the higher powers for strength, and jumped into action.
The battle was on. Sand was flying. The heat was intense. The weight of our weapons seemingly increased with each blow. The shadows of the mountains grew long and elegant as the evenings hue burned red. The battle endured.
As the sunset and the moon rose, corpses littered the sands. We combed the battlefield for any survivors. There were none.
Exhausted, sun-burned, tired, but victorious, we celebrated that evening under a millions stars with the kangaroo rats, the beetles and the accomplishment of holding onto a gem that would have otherwise been lost forever.

Fall in the Four Corners

I am now well into my fifth month here in Farmington, NM and in terms of SOS and the work I have been doing, it has been absolutely wonderful. The nights have grown colder and the fall plants are coming out. We have many species we are monitoring and collecting from, and I estimate that we will be able to collect anywhere from 9-15 more species before the end of October. Productivity is high right now, which is soo awesome compared to last month’s dip (straddling between the two rain seasons). Aside from SOS, I feel this month has been particularly unique in that we have seen much more of the “Enchantment” this land has to offer.

We recently ventured out to Chaco Canyon, which if you do not know is home to some pretty impressive Native American ruins. We drove through the bottom of the canyon, a wide plain which straddles a lone river running through it; on either side there are ruins. Some look like small hills with broken remnants of walls and archways sticking out the top like icebergs-where the rest is hidden beneath. Others are exposed and beaten. From a distance I could immediately pick out the small knolls and monuments and began to see a picture of a city long lost through centuries of struggle and strife. A place where people were interconnected through trade, language and family. It is said that this place has trails leading off to Mesa Verde and surrounding archeological sites. In fact, in the old days runners would pass mail to each other like batons in a relay race for miles and miles; this was their method to communicate between villages.

One monument, the largest ever registered through archeological records stands over 3 stories in the distance, and is from what I could tell an old gated community in the shape of a half circle (the diameter being over 150 ft wide). I walked through small doors and passageways, stood and peered into dark tunnels and gazed through countless windows that span across the ruin, like looking into a double-mirror. The walls, made from rock and mortar, were stacked so evenly that at times seemed perfectly straight. These guys could be the masters of the slowest game of Tetris! Not to mention, in the hot New Mexico sun the shaded parts of the walls were cool to the touch, and nice to lean against. I continued to lose myself until eventually spilling out on the other side of the ruin. This place is magical, and for me immediately stood out from anything else I had experienced. The history and knowledge Chaco Canyon reveals is astounding.   

I look forward to the next month of my internship. My co-worker and I plan on camping Columbus day weekend at the GRAND CANYON! We figure, it’s only 5 hours away and this way we won’t have to envy last year’s interns (jk jk, but seriously). If things keep going like they have, then October will be the best month yet!

In spirit of the countless hours of NPR we listen to in the field~ Be well, do good work and keep in touch!

Anthony Wenke