Saying goodbye to the Modoc

When I arrived in Modoc county five months ago, I had no idea what to expect. I had read about Alturas, CA on wikipedia, but that gave me only a limited idea of what I would find (read: I was expecting a lot of cows and not very many people, which was extremely accurate). However, I was fairly certain that I would not be having the stereotypical California experience. There wouldn’t be any malls or beaches or nightlife (unless you count the unbelievable views of the Milky Way), but I was fine with that. I was ready to explore the outdoors, see beautiful places, discover new plants and animals and to make some new friends. So that’s what I did.

My freedom to explore was the best part of my experience in Alturas. Nearly every weekend I was visiting some new place in California, Oregon or Nevada or camping in the mountains just outside Alturas. At work, my mentor encouraged me to visit as many places as possible in the surrounding area, and with a resource area of over 500,000 acres spanning four counties , I always had a new place to discover.  Some days I would just point to a spot on the map and head there to look for plants and seeds to collect, and other times I would ask around the office for suggestions of where to go next. I did have my favorite spots that I would revisit frequently, and it was fun to see them change through the season and to keep collecting new species there as the seasons changed. I also had a lot of freedom in the tasks I was performing at work. Although seed collection was my priority, I frequently went out in the field with range and noxious weeds staff in my office, and with US Forest Service and California Game & Fish crews as well. I also spent a lot of time at the National Wildlife Refuge just outside of town, where I learned about waterfowl monitoring, and was able to capture and band ducks and geese from an airboat at night. I met people from a wide variety of backgrounds, from seasonals like myself who were spending a summer in Modoc, to ranchers whose families had been living here for generations. I listened to people describe the ways they had gotten involved in conservation, and to others tell me about the difficulties they have with current policies and future plans. There are no simple answers, and I was reminded of this as I listened to people from all sides of the issues discuss their perspectives.

Next week I am on to a new chapter in my life. I will be working for a nonprofit land trust in Susanville, CA (about two hours south of where I am currently living) and I am really excited about experiencing the nonprofit approach to land management. I would not have this new position if not for the contacts that I have made through this job and I am sure that the skills and knowledge that I have gained will help me in the future. I will not be saying goodbye to this office for long, however, because I will be working closely with members of this office in my next job. And I’m sure that my new location will provide me access to many new places where I can continue my adventures…

Helping the noxious weeds crew...and making great use of my axe skills


A desert bear leaves its mark

Open spaces

My CLM internship has been a very significant learning experience. Being my first time working for a federal agency, I got to see first-hand what the work environment was like, as well as the sort of things that the BLM deals with on a regular basis. My mentor, Mel Schroeder, was very helpful in teaching me about the processes that go on and the frustrations and benefits of working there. As an intern, I got to be out in the field a lot, so I was able to enhance many of my field skills and also build many new ones.

Being in eastern Montana was an entirely new thing for me. I am originally from Richmond,VA, but even though I had been in western Montana several times, Miles City, MT was a completely different landscape that I had never experienced before. I enjoyed being in the sagebrush habitat and badlands of the area. The diversity of species was amazing and I enjoyed being able to identify and learn completely new plants, as well as being in pronghorn antelope country!

This internship allowed me to experience new things and try to narrow my ideas for my career. I made many contacts at the BLM, and my mentor was very supportive in me finding a career that would suit my interests. I look forward to pursuing my interests as I search for jobs, and am hopeful for the possibility of doing another CLM internship in a new location and possibly with a different agency.

Trip to the Grand Tetons to see the aspens in fall colors

Brooke Stallings

BLM Miles City, Montana


Reading everyone’s blogs from the last couple weeks makes me want to write about what this internship has meant to me. My personal difference is that I have been lucky enough to get an extension, so I’m not going to be leaving Denver until February. All the same, the field season is coming to an end, and I feel justified reflecting on my last 4.5 months as a CLM Intern.

Like many of the other interns, this has been my first real job after graduation. This means that similarly, I feel that I have learned a lot about working an 8-4 job, 5 days a week. It hardly feels like a real job though, since few people are lucky enough to spend their workweek exploring beautiful places and learning about interesting native (and sometimes rare) plants. I have appreciated the opportunity to really get to know Colorado, and to observe how I deal with working in a professional environment. The variety of my job has kept me interested throughout, even through the twinges that came when the summer ended and school started back up without me.

Unlike many of the other interns, I’m from the West. As a result, a lot of my experiences here have had familiar overtones. I grew up in the mountains, driving on bad dirt roads, living around people who like to hunt and shoot guns for fun. If anything, this internship proved to be the opposite experience – from growing up in a tiny town, to going to school in a small town, to suddenly living in a city of 2.5 million people. Perhaps because of this, I can’t say that my internship has been life changing. I already knew that I wanted to end up living and working in the West, preferably outside. I still don’t know what I want to do with my life any more specifically than that, though I think that my next step is going to be continuing to look for temporary jobs with many different biological foci. Despite that fact that I haven’t found a new direction for my life, I have learned a great deal about Colorado, about the flora, about working for the government, and about myself. Personally, I am now able to comfortably be self-sufficient. This has been the first time I’ve had to buy groceries and feed myself seven days a week, pay rent, and manage my own time. Due to a number of circumstances, I have also been living alone for about half of my internship thus far, something I never dreamed I would be able to do. I’m so happy to know that I can take care of myself, be comfortable with making my own decisions, and make meaningful friendships in a new place. These are skills that I will certainly take with me when I leave, thanks to CLM.

For now though, I feel extremely lucky that I’m staying. I will continue living and working in Colorado for the winter, switching over to a new project as the temperature outside keeps dropping. I’ll be essentially conducting an in-depth literature review of native pollinators, something that the nerd in me is very excited for. Look out for updates and interesting things that I’ve learned about pollinators in the next couple months!

Sama Winder, BLM Colorado State Office


When I moved to Oregon in May, after spending 23 years on the East Coast, I had no idea what to expect. I never even fathomed the possibility of loving it so much that I would never want to return home. I am unabashedly in love with Oregon and the West Coast. So this post is going to cover all of the things that I accomplished and learned about myself out here that were not work related. 1) I’m almost a cowgirl: I’ve always had a moderate obsession with equestrian things, but where I grew up in New York riding is an expensive and sort of fancy activity. So the prospect of hanging out with horses never really materialized until I got here to Eastern Oregon, where horses probably rival the number of people, and riding is much more casual (and affordable). So I’ve fallen in love with horses all over again in a new and much more fitting context for me. 2) On a whim, I decided to run a 10k (all uphill!) up Steens Mt., one of the highest peaks in Eastern Oregon. I got lost and got a speeding ticket along the way, but it was well worth it to feel on top of the world, looking down on hundreds of miles of deserts and lakes… and it is now one of my favorite places on Earth now because of the perspective it gave me. 3) Working four 10 hr. days and thus having 3 day weekends really opened our lives up to other places in Oregon, Washington and California. And becoming so accustomed to driving long distances on the beautiful roads out here (where highways are only two lanes and wind along through beautiful and remote places! Unheard of in the East), we got to Seattle, Portland, the Willamette Valley with berries coming out of its ears, Crater Lake National Park multiple times (Because 3 hours away is now equivalent to what 30 minutes used to feel like for me), the California Redwoods, and the Pacific ocean. So peaceful, even the cities are calmer, more relaxed, and much greener. 4) Quiet: After living in New York City where silence doesn’t exist, I am still amazed every night when I step outside my house and can so easily enjoy the stillness of real quiet, and it makes me happy. Conclusion: I never want to leave the Northwest.