Knowlton: Paradise in southeastern Montana?


This is my first post, and instead of breifly summarizing my experience so far, I’d rather talk about my recent experience in the Knowlton area.

In case you’re not familiar with eastern Montana let me fill you in: it is hot, it is dry, and it’s filled with prairie and badlands. Don’t get me wrong, I love the open prairie and often the tune “Home on the Range” flits through my head while we’re driving to sites (especially since we often see deer and antelope playing – though never together), however, sometimes green is a sight for sore eyes, especially this summer, the hottest and driest since 1956, as you all may know.

Anyway! My crewmate and I spend many a day looking for flowering forbs in hopes of collecting them for the Seeds of Success program, often finding only scorched grass. But the other day in Knowlton was different. (Well, not really THAT different, we still didn’t find that many flowering forbes.) After making a seed collection of a grass that we’re still trying to ID, we headed out of the Knowlton Recreation Area (I’m pretty sure the place we were in doesn’t really have a name, so I made it up) a different way then we came in (you know, so we could better survey the land), and I’m so glad we did!!! The drive back was the prettiest I’ve seen eastern Montana so far. Rolling hills covered in ponderosa pines, valleys with green deciduous trees, and beatuiful back-country roads you could get lost on (though luckily we didn’t!). If I could relocate the Miles City Field Office to Knowlton I would in a heartbeat!!

I tried to Google pictures to post on here of the area, however, I couldn’t find any. But I guess to conclude this I would just like to say you should never judge a region before getting to know it (as I might have done) and that, if you’re looking for it, you’ll always find beauty in your surroundings.

Desert Mirage – Reflections on Five Months in the Mojave

Well, it’s about that time.  Five months has come and gone, and my internship with the BLM Needles Field Office is coming to a close next  week.  You know how they say “time flies when you’re having fun,” right?  It’s true, I’ve had a blast, made some great friendships (especially with my fellow CLM Interns), and learned an incredible amount.  I cannot believe that it is already over.

Co-CLM Intern Nate with a Desert Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma platyrhinos)

Before coming to Needles, I was told that it was going to get hot, very hot . . . like 120° F hot!  In fact, Needles, CA often trades places with Badwater in Death Valley NP as the hottest place in the US!  I had never lived somewhere in the summer with that type of heat, so did not know what to expect.  As with anything you adapt, and all of the interns here are still riding our bikes to and from work, just like in the cooler months.  The saving grace from the heat is the Colorado River running right through town; you can go down there and cool off any time of day.  If you are willing to drive, you can always get away from the heat and see some really cool stuff on the weekends!  Needles is centrally located between many really interesting natural landmarks, with the best visitation times split throughout the year:

Kelso Dunes in the Mojave National Preserve

In the cooler months, visit Joshua Tree National Park (SW, 2.5hr), Mojave National Preserve (W, 1hr), Death Valley National Park (NW, 4hr), Las Vegas with the Red Rock National Conservati0n Area, Lake Mead National Recreation Area, and Valley of Fire State Park (N, 2-3hr), Zion National Park (NE, 4.5hr), Southern Arizona with the Oregon Pipe National Monument, Sonoran Desert National Monument, and Saguaro National Park (SE, 4-6hr), and Lake Havasu City with the Havasu and Bill Williams National Wildlife Refuges (S, <1hr).  When the Mojave Desert really starts to heat up, head up in elevation to Big Bear, Idyllwild, Mt. San Gorgonio, and Mt. San Jacinto in the San Bernadino National Forest (SW, 3-4hr), the California Coast (SW, 4-5hr), the Southern Sierra Nevada Mountains (NW, 4-5hr), Mt. Charleston in the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area (N, 3hrs), the Hualapai Mountain Park near Kingman, AZ (NE, 1hr), and Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon (E, 3-3.5hr).

The Cabin at Horsethief Spring

There aren’t just cool things around Needles, but the Needle Field Office holds some pretty unique biology and geology.  From the Kingston Range in the North, with the abundant cottonwoods, bobcats, and coyotes at Horsethief Spring, to the Cadiz and Sheephole Valleys in the South, with extensive sand dunes and rugged mountain ranges, the landscape in the Eastern Mojave is incredibly diverse.  When you are seeing something new and exciting, every day in the field an awesome experience.

Cadiz Valley

My internship project was split into two parts: 1) A Species Inventory for the Mojave Fringe-toed Lizard (Uma scoparia) within the Needles Field Office, and 2) Density Sampling for MFTLs at two individual dune locations.  This project required a large level of self reliance and motivation for research.  However, now that I am finishing up I realize that all of the hard work  was worth it.  I was somewhat worried when my original mentor (our only Wildlife Biologist) left to take another position half-way through the internship.  However, the rest of the staff and the other interns stepped in to help whenever necessary.  Committing myself to one project for this five-month period has been similar to completing a “mini-thesis,” and has given me a good taste of what working on and publishing a graduate thesis will feel like.  I am happy with the work that I have completed, which is thorough enough to have been incorporated with the US Fish & Wildlife Service’s MFTL occupancy records.  My inventory should help any future researchers working with MFTLs to help determine whether federal or state protection for the species is warranted.

Mojave Fringe-toed Lizard (Uma scoparia)

I was able to help with other projects as well, ranging from bat surveys with the Bureau of Reclamation, to Abandoned Mine Lands surveys and Seeds of Success work, which only further helped my development as a biologist.  The Intern Workshop was an especially valuable networking tool and provided a sense of community with other CLM interns across the west.  I have really enjoyed my time working for the BLM in Needles and as a CLM Intern.  I have learned what working in a Bureau of Land Management office is really like, which has given me valuable insight into whether or not I want to continue working for the federal government.  Unfortunate the five months has flown by, but with many good times and valuable experiences.  Now it’s time to move on to the next adventure . . .

Searching for the next adventure . . .

So until the next time,

“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds. May your rivers flow without end, meandering through pastoral valleys tinkling with bells, past temples and castles and poets towers into a dark primeval forest where tigers belch and monkeys howl, through miasmal and mysterious swamps and down into a desert of red rock, blue mesas, domes and pinnacles and grottos of endless stone, and down again into a deep vast ancient unknown chasm where bars of sunlight blaze on profiled cliffs, where deer walk across the white sand beaches, where storms come and go as lightning clangs upon the high crags, where something strange and more beautiful and more full of wonder than your deepest dreams waits for you – beyond that next turning of the canyon walls.”

Benedicto – Edward Abbey


Jeff Gicklhorn

BLM Needles Field Office

Recently we have been attempting to re-vegetate a creek (Toro Creek). This has become a larger task then visioned, we have moved from carrying buckets down a creek to now using a large pump, and pumping 900 gallons a day. The willows that had been planted a month before I came are now starting to flourish (approx. 2400 willows).

I have also had the chance to be the volunteer supervisor for the summer. This has given me the opportunity have 5 to 10 volunteers working with me. They have helped me with my Seeds of Success collections, watering willows, relocating squirrels, Bull Thistle removal, and planting new oak trees.  Last week we took a field trip down to King City, CA for a meeting about Yellow Star Thistle on Fort Hunter Liggett. This meeting went over how to control the invasive as well as prove to the public this can be done and needs to be done.

On November 8th we will be putting on an invasive weed symposium in Santa Cruz, CA called the Central California Invasive Weed Symposium and if you are near there I think this would be a great way to see what is happening around California.  There will be field trips and speakers as well.


Desert Life

Alyson Frisch

BLM:  Phoenix District Office, Lower Sonoran Range Tech under direction of Andrea Felton

I wake up early to a new morning filled with the sounds of cooing Mourning Doves, Curve-Billed Thrashers, and Gila woodpeckers.  As soon as I step outside, I realize how different my life will be away from the humid Gulf of Mexico breeze and smell of a fresh cut lawn.  The Phoenix Valley yards are comprised of local rock and any vegetation consists of standing dead plant matter, litter, or succulent (which slowly is exhibiting characteristics of necrosis/disease due to dehydration and suppressed immune system defenses).  Media sources retort Phoenix as having a “dry heat” – which means you’re either nearly suffocating on the dry clay particle-filled breeze, or because you’ve run out of water and succumbed to heat exhaustion.  I am not sure if I would be glad to trade it for the high humidity in Houston for I often feel like a dried up raisin after a long days work.

The BLM Arizona administers 12.2 million surface acres of public lands, and another 17.5 million subsurface acres within the state.  Honestly, I can’t say I have met a more cordial, cooperative group of knowledgeable individuals committed to multiple-use land management.  The BLM field offices have their work cut out for them considering:

1) the amount of law suits posed upon their efforts to emphasize conservation (restoration where it is warranted) of threatened/endangered endemics and preserving biodiversity historic to each ecological site of the allotment region;

2) the vast amount of terrain that the district must survey, diagnose utilization threats to the local flora, and then administer carefully the most efficient measure of control; and finally

3) limited personnel to actually perform the work.

The Phoenix BLM is making great headway into appeasing the public, permittees, and environmentally-minded professionals.

During my first 2 months in Phoenix, I have refreshed and refined my basic monitoring and navigation techniques, at times employing the use of alien equipment (Trimble Juno 3 instead of the familiar Garmin ETrex).  I am reminded by my superiors that I have only scratched the surface of all the rangeland management projects that I will be taking part of.  So far, I have participated in MIMS and AIM surveying/monitoring techniques and have been surprised at the amount of detail we are capturing from environmental signatures across the Arizona landscape to use in protecting Arizona Chub habitat or grazing allotments from degradation of biotic diversity.  Apart from the long hours in the field, my fellow interns/housemates and I have found time to hike and camp at Sonoran Desert Preserve, and state parks in Cave Creek,  Sedona, and the Tonto National Forest (i.e. Red Rock State Park, Slide Rock State Park, Dead Horse Ranch State Park, Cave Creek Regional Park, and many more).

I am grateful to all who work with the CLM Program at the Chicago Botanic Garden and the Phoenix BLM for the opportunity to relocate, make life-lasting friendships, and allow me to be a part of sustaining the habitats within the BLM lands in the Phoenix District of Arizona.









Heating up

The weather here in Northern California has finally started warming up, but with no humidity I have found it is still quite pleasant.  Seed collections are occurring frequently now, with new seeds ripening every week.  I have been able to get out to collect with a couple of other CBG intern groups.  The company has been good (thanks guys and girls).  We had an awesome opportunity to band Greater Sandhill Cranes two weeks ago in Modoc National Wildlife Refuge with the US Fish and Wildlife Service.  This was  a very cool experience, although slightly less technical than I had assumed.  You spot “suspicious” looking cranes in the field as you’re driving by, slam the vehicle into park, and sprint out to them hoping to find a juvenile crane in the grasses.  You then grab the crane, and glue a sequence of bands onto its leg.  It’s not rocket science, but they can learn a great deal about the cranes from doing this.  Breeding site preference, age, mortality rate, and other types of information are all recorded from the simple bands.  I am attending a rattlesnake seminar this month on rattlesnake courtship (seems a very dangerous and entertaining subject) and will be tagging along on a survey for Spivey frogs on the 30th.  Life is good.

Physeria, I hope you know how much we care.

One night I received an email saying that I would be helping build a fence the following day. I envisioned your typical field fence made of metal stakes painted green and barbed wire and I thought, “that will be fun”. I was not wrong in thinking this, but I was wrong in what my vision of a fence was. Our team was presented with 7 large pipes that required a deep breath and clenching of every bodily muscle for them to be moved off of the trailer. In addition to that, our shovels were met by stubborn bed rock when we started to dig the initial holes. We each became very familiar with our friend, the auger, as the bedrock presented itself like an angry bouncer at a night club. Our friendly co-worker suddenly became like a slave-driver as he demanded holes two feet deep. I soon realized that the auger was no match for such stubborn bedrock and had to resort to a steel bar that looked much like an over-sized flat-head screw driver. As I drove it into the ground, breaking up small chunks of rock at a time, I started to feel like a clumsy archaeologist, fumbling toward a reward… only my reward was an empty hole… and what a beautiful empty hole it was when it was complete! After smothering all of my hard work with cement we had one pole in place! And only 6 more to go.

But I suppose I should mention that this project was not just for fun on a Monday, our aim was to protect Physeria congesta habitat, of course! This made me think of Dean’s presentation at the end of our workshop in Chicago; similarly in this location, four-wheelers were romping up an old road where P. congesta had colonized. The old road was hanging on to two tire tracks that could be seen from a distance and apparently, were calling to weekend riders. Now that the fence is in place, our threatened friends, P. congesta can spread their seeds without being crushed.