Paradise Island

Paradise Island is a supposedly untouched (except for some mowed trails) example of what a coastal forest on Long Island once was before deer over population and anthropogenic disturbance. It is within the borders of Bayard Cutting Arboretum State Park in New York, between the Connetquot River and West Brook. The area has too many mosquitos for me to call it a paradise, even for a botanist. But, it is quite a paradise for birds with all the Aronia arbutiflora I found there.

Apios americana (American groundnut)

Found this special bean growing prolifically among phragmites, not much can do that! It has an edible pod, flower, and tuber. This was a crucial food source during pre-colonial and colonial periods in America. The smell of these flowers is very unique and sweet.


A view of the Connetquot river from the South western edge of Paradise Island. The treeline is the river walk of Bayard Cutting Arboretum

The Connetquot river is one of Long Island’s largest tidal rivers. Nearly the entire length of this great river is preserved within a state park that bears it’s name, just North of Bayard Cutting Arboretum.

ME holding some PLANTS.

I thought the sign behind me was kinda funny. A family of Osprey have 2 nests on the Island that Bald Eagles move into once the Ospreys migrate South for the winter.

Hibiscus mocheutos (Crimsoneyed Rosemallow)

I made a large collection of this salt loving flower. The population was super healthy with minimal weevil predation.

What happened to September?

“Wake me up when September ends” would also be an appropriate title here, considering how quickly September flew by. I can hardly believe it’s October. September celebrated my 6th month out west, and brought some great memories.

I was lucky enough to spend Labor Day weekend exploring the wonders of Oregon. I met up with fellow CLMer Madie from the Arcata Field Office for a camping trip at Crater Lake NP. While much of our trip was smoky due to the various wildfires in and around the park, the experience is and will continue to be unforgettable. Pictures nor words could do it justice. Some of my favorite things included the bats that came out each night, our innovative kitchen tools, s’mores, and the views. I hope to make it back to Crater Lake when the lake formed by a volcanic collapse can be seen and when more flowers are in bloom. While camping at Diamond Lake in the Umpqua National Forest and spending time at the Crater Lake, wildfire threats were so very real; the last 2 days we saw many campers leave due to the threat/smoke and our amazing fire crews creating fire line and backfiring. While I’ve always been incredibly grateful for these men and women, my appreciation grew so much more. After a few discussions with a firefighter/Natural Resource Specialist in the office, getting my red card, and potentially serving on a crew is something I see in my future. Thank a firefighter, and always remember to be smart during fire season – and off season, too!

Crater Lake on the least smoky day!

Mount Bailey, Diamaond Lake, Umpqua National Forest. A typical day during our visit to the Umpqua National Forest and Crater Lake National Park

Chipmunk that decided that Madie and I couldn’t see it if it didn’t move

Plaikni Falls, Crater Lake, Oregon

The pinnacles at Crater Lake, OR; these super cool geologic features are fossil fumaroles. They were formed under sheets of volcanic pumice that preceded Mazama’s collapse. As the surface cooled over years, steam and gas were released from the hot rocks underneath by vents and tubes that were welded into cement by the passage of the steam and gas. These are the vents after years of erosion. Nature does some pretty cool things.

After spending the weekend at the lake, I detoured to Portland upon the recommendation of my mentor, to check out Powell’s and Voodoo Donuts. Both very much worth the 3 hour detour! I could spend the rest of my time in Powell’s and be extremely happy; it’s a huge bookstore (new and used) with just about everything you could think of. I snagged some books I’ve been wanting to get and ventured to Voodoo’s to try some of the best donuts I’ve had. I highly recommend the Mexican Hot Chocolate Donut!

My return to the office has been slow since many of the plants on my list have been collected, so I’ve embarked on office work. While I definitely enjoy my field work a thousand times more than being inside, I’ve gotten to do some cool things. Right now, I am (FINALLY) finishing up digitizing the office’s herbarium! It’s been tedious, and frustrating – no thanks to my computer for constantly crashing in the middle of saving a file – but, albeit rewarding. I’ve gotten to see some cool vouchers, and I’ve definitely gotten a sense of pride seeing my vouchers among the 700+ samples we have. I’ve also gotten to clean Silene spaldingii seed, another tedious and, at times, frustrating duty. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts Silene spaldingii is a federally listed plant, and with the help and permission of USFWS, we collected over 10,000 seeds from multiple sites (while not taking more than 10% of the seed population) which will be grown out and used in rehabilitation and reintroduction of Silene spaldingii to its native landscape.

That being said, I will take any opportunity to get out in the field when possible, which includes Interdisciplinary Team field trips to mining sites, timber sales, and land assessments (which have been truly invaluable; I’ve learned quite a lot); recreation site trash duty; cultural flagging for AVISTA linework on BLM property; and National Public Lands Day! NPLD was a lot of fun, our field office partnered with Washington Trails Association, Washington Mountaineers, and our local REI to build about 1.5 miles of new trail out at our Fishtrap Recreation Site! I always managed to find the 10 feet of basalt to build trail on, but it was worth all the trouble, especially knowing that more of this gorgeous country will be accessible to the public!

Next on my list of to-do’s in October include updating GeoBOB (a database for threatened and endangered species in OR/WA) with all the Silene spaldingii sites I set up and monitored this season, writing my final report, and whatever else fun projects may pop up. Our office Forester may have some opportunities for my to do some forestry work, which is really exciting because I haven’t spent nearly as much time in the mountains as I would have liked.

These last 5 weeks or so are definitely going to be cherished, I’ve loved working for the BLM and learning from so many different disciplines. I’m going to make sure I make the last bit of this internship as memorable as possible, in and out of the office.

Over and out,



From Spokane to the San Juan’s!

The last half of July and most of August have been a whirlwind of rare plant monitoring and GeoBOB! I’ve been helping out a lot with Silene spaldingii (SISP2) monitoring – I’ve been to sites with 50+ plants (not usually so robust!) – and with that comes updating GeoBOB, a geographic database used for biological observations of rare/threatened/endangered plants and animals. Once I got through the training, I was ready to go! I’ve been lucky enough to see populations of over 100 plants and located 2 new sites! It’s been a great year for not just SISP2, but most late spring and summer plants, much in part to the heavy spring rains! As the SISP2 monitoring wound down, I was lucky enough to get to spend a week at the San Juan Islands National Monument collecting seeds.

The timing lined up perfectly with the eclipse, which was ~90% visible at the Islands. That Monday morning I went out with a park ranger named Rosie (if you BLMers read the articles on Inside Passage, Rosie was featured in a story a few weeks back about working with Junior Rangers on the islands) to Iceberg Point to get a feel for the island’s plant life and for Rosie to complete the monitoring at Iceberg Point Monument. We counted about 23 people, 2 dogs (on leashes!! Go Humans!), and 23 sea lions! While there we enjoyed the eclipse; Lopez Island got considerably cooler and the sunlight dimmed, although nothing like what was experienced by those in the path of totality.

Tuesday, I was island hopping with Nick, the outdoor recreation planner, (also featured on a recent Inside Passage article) to Cattlepoint, another part of the monument found on San Juan Island. He was going out to meet with a contractor doing some work on the lighthouse, and I was going to attempt to collect some seeds in the sand dunes and coastal prairie area. Once we finished up at Cattlepoint, Nick got a message from a volunteer letting him know they had spotted a part of a broken buoy that was stuck on the shoreline out at American Camp (another part of the Monument, and technically National Park Service land). What I’ve quickly learned about the Islands out here is that everyone helps each other out. Our BLM office out there has many partners and they work together to ensure that the lands out on the islands stay as ‘wild and native’ as possible. On our way to American Camp, Nick was telling me the story about American Camp, English Camp, and the Pig War. Little did I know, but this monument was actually where the only known war (during the settlement of the United States) had been avoided.

History goes that at American Camp there was a soldier by the name of Lyman Cutlar that had created his garden and recently planted potatoes; he was quite proud of his little production. In English Camp, there was a soldier by the name of Charles Griffin; Griffin owned a pig, a rather mischievous pig. Griffin’s pig would sneak into Cutlar’s garden and dig up Cutlar’s potatoes, making Cutlar understandably angry. Cutlar warned Griffin that his pig was trespassing and digging up his potatoes; Cutlar also warned Griffin that if his pig didn’t cut it out, Cutlar would kill the pig. Of course, Griffin couldn’t stop the pig, the pig continued stealing potatoes, and Cutlar followed his threat of killing the pig.This situation was what eventually (nearly) led to war; known as the Pig War. However, before any battles broke out an arbitrator, Kaiser Wilhem I of Germany, was able to peacefully resolve the war. And there you have it, the short (hi)story of the Pig War. TLDR: A British pig was stealing potatoes from an American garden. The garden’s proprietor, an American soldier shot the British Pig. The pig’s owner, a British soldier, found out; the two sides nearly went to war over a pig and some potatoes.

Anyway, without much luck, Nick and I did not find the styrofoam part of the buoy (and hope that someone else does before it gets blown to smithereens by a storm and does some real damage to the wildlife).

Wednesday, I was able to go out with another volunteer of the monument in search of some seeds. It was a great day spend hiking at Watmough Bay (where the salmon are begging to be fished) and the Holodiscus discolor (ocean spray) was perfect for collecting. Because I was only there for a week, I didn’t get to collect any vouchers since the plants had already gone to seed, and thus no pictures of ocean spray in flower.

Thursday, I went island hopping to San Juan Island again to meet up with one of the monument’s many partners. Eliza, part of the San Juan County Landbank, was creating local pollinator seed packets, and I was going to take a tour of Red Mill Farm and help create seed packets. But of course, not without a mishap. In my early morning stupor, I managed to get on the ferry right before the one I was actually supposed to take, and wound up back in the Americas, as the islanders would say. After boarding the correct ferry, I met up with Eliza, and got to learn more about the partnerships BLM has forged out on the islands. It’s so great to see the entire community rallying behind native plant preservation and land conservation, and really just trying to be better environmental stewards. Another cool fact I learned is that the San Juan Islands have adopted and created their own Leave No Trace principles, in large part to Nick’s efforts (Thanks, Nick!!).

Friday, I also went island hopping with Marcia, the monument manager. We had plans of wading out to Indian Island from Orcas Island – having been told the tide would be somewhere between 3 to 10 inches, to collect some native seed. We got out there and were surprised that the tide was indeed not 3 to 10 inches, but we gave it a shot anyway. As the water level began to near our knees, we didn’t think it would be wise to continue since we weren’t even at the deepest part yet, and didn’t plan on needing to swim over. While I didn’t get to visit Indian Island, I can say I’ve officially been in the Salish Sea! While waiting for the ferry, we stopped at a bakery, and grabbed some of the most delicious pastries I’ve tried (their pan au chocolat definitely rivals the ones I had in France)! So if you ever find yourself on Orcas Island in Washington, make it a point to check out Brown Bear Baking. You won’t regret it. Also check out the history museum, it’s got this cool sculpture outside with describing how man came to be from an old native tale, very interesting!

As I said my goodbyes to the islands, I couldn’t help but stop by Orcas on my way back to the mainland and snag some goodies to enjoy in Spokane. Once I got back to Anacortes, I had thought I would drive down to Seattle and explore the city a bit more. But, like much of my plans, they changed, and I found myself driving to North Cascades National Park. Of course, with it being the National Park Service’s 101st birthday (Happy belated NPS!) and the start of classes lingering ominously, all the campgrounds within reasonable distance were full, so I took a quick little hike up Thunder Knob to get a spectacular view of Diablo Lake. Thanks to the rangers that recommended it, and I hope that their stations get less busy since today is the last day senior passes are $10!!

After my little short excursion, I drove through the rest of the Cascades enjoying a spectacular sunset, and found myself back in Spokane. A busy week full of amazing views; I honestly couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunities CLM has given me. Here’s to making the most of the next 2 months I have left in the Border Field Office.

Until next time,


Odlin Beach, Lopez Island, WA


Sunset at Odlin Beach, Lopez Island, WA

Island Art that explains how man came to earth, Orcas Island, WA

Watmough Bay, BLM, Lopez Island, WA

Diablo Lake from Thunder Knob, North Cascades National Park, WA

There Were Plants and Birds and Rocks and Things…

It’s hard to believe five months have already come and gone. Writing this, I am currently looking down the last week I have of this internship, before I pack up and road-trip back to the Midwest. Last May, I departed from the bustling Chicago-land area to begin work out here in Burns, Oregon, a town that prides itself on having more cattle than people. My concept of Oregon had predominantly been formed by alleged Big-Foot sightings and shows like Portlandia and Twin Peaks. I had been completely unware of the Eastern desert half of the state, a cowboy’s paradise.

The land here is vast and open. The horizons stretch on forever, occasionally broken by juniper and sage-brush covered mountains far off in the distance. Sunsets and sunrises are humbling to witness, creating scarlet bands on the edge of the sky that encompasses your entire field of vision. The land may be dry and at first glace empty, but upon closer examination, it is teeming with life. Elk, mule deer, and antelopes dash alongside the roads. Wild horses gallop in packs up and down steep slopes with tremendous ease. On the ground, lizards and snakes dart from rock to rock, while hawks, osprey, and turkey vultures whiz by, or circle overhead. Streams and rivers lay hidden, tucked in mountain valleys, and hot springs gurgle and emerge from the ground on the edges of the desert. This is a quite place, and a beautiful place.

Being able to work out in this land has been a privilege I won’t soon forget. I have learned much, both on a professional and personal level. This job is through the Bureau of Land Management, and has been an eye-opening experience on how the government functions, as well as how there can be so many wildly varying (and often justifiable) opinions towards the government. The BLM is focused on land management, and as a result must take into account resource extraction, livestock utilization, recreation use, archeological value, and environmental sustainability, all at once, for the same plot of land. Each of these interests are overseen by different departments in the BLM office, and each of these interests have different third-party activist groups either strongly in-favor, or strongly opposed to the actions of the BLM. From my limited perspective, it seems hard to appease both environmental groups and cattle ranchers, when a land plot must be used for both cattle grazing, recreation, and be simultaneously preserved in a sustainable manner. While the BLM does its best to placate all of these array of interests, it is not always infallible. The BLM, like any organization, is composed of people who come with their own biases, and are capable of making mistakes. This is not to say the BLM is ineffective; in fact, I believe the BLM is a million times better than the alternative of having no regulatory force over these large swaths of land. In my short time here, I have discovered the BLM does amazing work and I do genuinely think it is slowly improving the land here, as well as the relationships with the large web of people it must work with.

On a personal level, working here has been pretty eye opening post 2016-election. I hail from the Northwest suburbs of Chicago, an area with a heavy liberal demographic tilt, and as a result, I was a bit hesitant coming out to this rural and conservative area after such a divisive and polarizing election. In my time here, during offhand conversations, I was bluntly asked strong political-value based questions (e.g. gun control, affirmative action, immigration policy, etc.) and was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to have dialogue with people of starkly opposing opinions. Now this wasn’t always the case, and sometimes conversations had to be dropped as soon as they were started, but for the most part, I found myself having constructive back and forth talks about issues that I had formerly believed to have no middle-ground. And while opinions weren’t always changed, I think for the most part, both parties walked away more sympathetic to where the other side was coming from, even if we agreed to disagree. On a deep level, this has provided me a lot of hope for the future of this country.

In a week I will begin a road-trip home. I will leave here with many good memories much to reflect on. I am grateful for the opportunity I had to work out here, the other interns I worked with, the people I met, and the beautiful nature I saw. I will be leaving, but I think I shall be coming back in the near future…after all, supposedly Big-Foot is still out here, waiting to be discovered.

-Carter Cranberg (Burns/Hines District BLM)

Indian Paintbrush

My Cubicle

Wild Horse Rush Hour

Wild-Horse Lake