In the Beginning

Ferris Mountain RFO

I have only been at my position here in Rawlins for one week so I am still getting my feet under me and figuring out the lay of the land. I was surprised on my first day by the size of the office. Rawlins is a small town but the BLM Rawlins field office has 3.5 million acres of public lands with around 100 people working here. Everyone that I have met so far has been incredibly kind and genuine and I am looking forward to getting to know them better. I am the only seasonal intern at the office currently and it is likely that will not change for a couple more weeks, I look forward to meeting the other interns as well.

The main project that I will be working on this season will be inventory and monitoring of the amphibians and reptiles in the Rawlins Field Office (RFO). However, since my partner wont start until June, I will be helping with other projects until she arrives. This week I have been helping mostly with Lek Monitoring or ‘Grousing’. This entails rising a couple hours before sunrise and driving to know lekking sites for the Greater Sage Grouse. Around sunrise you count the number of male and female sage grouse that you see. These are amazing birds! A lek is the area where the male grouse preform their mating display and where the females watch from the sage brush to choose their mate.The mating display is unlike anything that I have ever seen. To display, they spike their tail feathers, hold up their wings, puff out their chests 3 time in a row, and inflate the bright yellow air sacs on their chests to produce a type of popping or bubbling noise. The grouse will preform their displays every morning for all of the breeding season, sometime starting in the middle of the night and going until just past sunrise. Grouse return to the same lek every year (with some exceptions of course!) and usually all of the females will choose the same one or two males to mate with. Most of the occupied leks that we’ve seen so far have had around 30 birds on them.

Greater Sage Grouse displaying on a lek

As for the amphibians and reptiles, I have done a little bit of training with them this week. We took nets out to two different water sources to try to capture some amphibians. We heard Chorus Frogs but only caught one Northern Leopard Frog. We also tried to noose some lizards, which consists of lassoing a lizard with a small piece of string (in this case dental floss) tied to a snake hook. For some reason the string doesn’t frighten the lizards so you can slip the loop around their neck and have a better chance of capturing them. My mentor is also working with people from the Game and Fish Department and the Wyoming Natural Diversity Database (WYNDD) who are doing amphibian surveys in the RFO. I got to sit in on their meeting the other day which turned out to be pretty informative. If plans stay the same we will hopefully be working together to survey for Spadefoot Toads in the coming weeks. I’m excited to work with them and learn from these other agencies.

Seminoe Reservoir

Overall it has been a good first week in the office and I am looking forward to what the rest of the season will have in store.


First Week!!


I didn’t have many expectations of what my internship in the BLM Carlsbad Field Office would be like as I left Texas. My first week still had some pretty exciting ( and some not-so-exciting) adventures!

South of the office field day. I had to stop and look up occasionally to soak up this view!

Safety first! Two whole days of safety training/ driver training/ getting to know the office… Very important if nothing else! And I learned a thing or two in the process. I even drove this giant truck on some not-so-developed country roads (eek!). Everyone in the vehicle survived (I like to think) because I did my safety training.

Later in the week we made it out into the field a bit. The first outing was to learn the procedure for conducting rangeland plot surveys. There are plots that have been established for monitoring, and we will be specifically examining effects of grazing by sampling pre-season and post-season forbs and grasses. There also might be time to collect pronghorn fecal samples!!

Yesterday we spent the day exploring the range of an endemic species of flax (Linum allredii) that has only been found to occur on a single ridge line thus far. That was pretty great! I got to meet a rare plant and also get introduced to some of the plants I’ll be working with later in the season (and their look-alikes!).

Trekkng through the landscape as we searched for L. allredii

The plant of interest for Thursday. (The waterproof phone case had trapped moisture that didn’t agree with the heat; sorry about the quality)

This week I’ve met new plants, revisited a few familiar ones, learned driving and navigation skills, and safety, safety, safety! Though the official assignment is seed collecting with SOS, these exercises are helping us distinguish local flora so we can hit the ground running with seed collecting!

All the best,


So Far, So Great

Day 3: Morale is high! It is still raining.

After driving 2,400 miles last week from North Carolina to Idaho Falls, Idaho… we have finally started the field season here in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest! I began my  position as Botany/Seeds of Success Intern only three days ago with another CLM Intern, Olivia Turner. The first few days have been filled with orientation, bear safety training, indicator species, gypsy moth trap placement, and briefing about our work with the Seeds of Success (SOS) and Rocky Mountain Research Station (RMRS). Even though there are only 30 hours under my belt, I could not be more excited to see what unfolds next. Eastern Idaho could not be anymore beautiful. It is filled with colorful rolling mountains and is surrounded completely by the large snowy peaks of both the Lemhi and Teton range.

 LeftMahonia repens (Oregon grape); right: Lithospermum ruderale (Stoneseed).

Yesterday, we were able to explore just the outskirts of this massive 3+ million acre forest and began learning more about our specific SOS species which are: Balsamorhiza sagittata, Erigeron pumilis, Phacelia hastata, and Sphaeralcea spp. These are considered to be target native species. To better understand species density throughout the forest, we will be responsible for population mapping, seed collecting, herbarium vouchers, and phenology monitoring.

After an incredibly beautiful hike outside of Pocatello, we were able to meet with a pest survey coordinator from the Idaho State Department of Agriculture to be trained on the mapping and placement of gypsy moth traps. The state is looking for both European and Asian gypsy moths due to their ability to severely defoliate a given tree or shrub species to the extent that the species can die. Below, is an example of the specific traps used in this research. Olivia and I are now responsible to place over 200 traps in hopes to capture some of these gnarly invasive insects and contribute to the ongoing population mapping of the species. To learn more about this research, visit

Additionally, with an indicator species training in the future, we were able to spend time shifting through the herbarium at the Caribou-Targhee National Forest office (see images below). We organized 45 different native shrubs, forbs, and graminoids. This was such an incredible opportunity to further understand the botanical diversity here in the Intermountain Region. Not to mention, the herbarium here at the supervisors office is something to be amazed by. The oldest specimen we have found so far dated back to 1912!

This week has given wonderful insight of what this internships has to offer. I look forward to learning more everyday while I am out here!


Claire Parsons

SOS Intern, Caribou-Targhee National Forest

Rising with the Suckers

Crater Lake, located just an hour and a half drive north of Klamath Falls

Just as Hungry in the Night as in the Day

I’m currently on my second midnight snack. I guess you could call it a midnight meal at this point because we’ve been living the nocturnal life for two weeks now—start work at 2am, return home around 10am. The first few days getting acclimated to this schedule were pretty tough; one particular morning involved falling asleep in the waiting room of the BLM office, but now I guess you could say we’re thriving.

Brianne gazes longingly into an sucker-less bucket

Intros aside, greetings from a clear starry night in Klamath Falls! I’m nice and cozy writing this blog post back in the US Fish and Wildlife office. It’s 5 am on Friday morning of our second week. This morning started off with the three of us piling into the USFWS truck to drive thirty minutes to Modoc Point where the bridge over the Williamson River marks the catch point of Lost River (Deltistes luxatus)/Shortnose (Chasmistes brevirostris)/Klamath Large Scale (Catostomus snyderi) sucker larvae we will be collecting for the next few weeks into mid June. We deployed our two separate plankton nets in four sets, with a twenty minute window for larvae to collect in between each retrieval. It was below freezing and lightly snowing when we started, so that twenty minutes of waiting for larval accumulation took place in the car with the heat blasting. When our timers went off we rushed back to our nets with corresponding buckets filled with Williamson River water. We pulled our nets up and gingerly unscrewed the base of the two, using our headlamps to illuminate our samples. We were looking for translucent,10mm long larval suckers, but collection has purposefully been scheduled for just before the peaks of larval activity are to occur, in hopes that we won’t miss our opportunity to catch our goal of 30,000 larvae this season. As a result, last week we ended up with buckets full of plant life, and many different kinds of macroinvertebrates, mostly mayflies and stoneflies.

Williamson River reflection

Why suckers? Why 2am? Why larvae?

I know, so many questions! The shortnose and Lost River sucker species have been federally listed as endangered species since 1988. With both species endemic to the Klamath Basin, the habitat degradation of riparian areas and manipulation of waterways in the the last hundred years have negatively impacted water quality and spiked phosphate and other nutrient levels in Klamath Lake. The situation has gotten so bad that the juvenile suckers are no longer able to reach sexual maturity to bring population numbers back up to a stable level.

That said, for whatever reason my self-illustrated initial mental image of these fish had them as pretty puny and short-lived. My low expectations for the species were blown out of the water (literally) when we were lucky enough to observe USGS studying adult suckers spawning in the cold springs of the rocky eastern shores of Klamath Lake. We learned that adult suckers are supposed to live between thirty to forty years, and can be almost three feet long! I realize that size should not be an indicator of the amount of respect I have for a species, but I was in awe of their size and beauty that day on the lake.

USGS handles an adult Lost River sucker

So that should get us caught up—USFW has undertaken a Juvenile Sucker Rearing Program involving the larval capture of days old juvenile suckers for the purpose of raising them in tanks and ponds located at a shared property called Gone Fishing, just about three miles north of the Oregon/California border as the crow flies. The larvae begin to hatch and float/swim downstream early May through mid June, and are most active around 3am, hence our night work for the next few weeks!

Measuring and PIT tagging suckers before their release into Klamath Lake

In two to three years these larvae we’ve caught will have been steadily maturing in outdoor ponds on the property. Around this time they’ll either be PIT tagged or radio tagged and released into Klamath Lake in the hopes to add to the population of sexually mature adult suckers.

Checking the security of the Klamath Lake soft-release nets

Fitting drains for the 150 gallon tanks

So here we are, back in the office and waiting for the sun to rise so we can head over to Gone Fishing. This past week we’ve spent a majority of our time at Gone Fishing, preparing various sized tanks for the sucker larvae we will be raising to juveniles (about 2 years). Prepping includes, but is not limited to drilling through the twenty-four 150 gallon fiberglass tanks and fitting each with a drain that connects to a mainline, as well as cutting and constructing the PVC piping that fits and fills each tank. There has also been a fair amount of creative interpretation/freedom for how the three of us wanted to construct a table that would support four individual inverted five-gallon water jugs, which would act as our brine shrimp hatching vessels, eventually serving as sustenance for our growing larvae!

Jenny and Brianne fit one of our 150 gallon tanks with a drain pipe

Getting a Better Sense of Place

Mt McLoughlin’s reflection into Klamath Lake

Honestly, my favorite parts of these last few weeks have been the opportunities we’ve been given to learn about this place and the work Fish and Wildlife is doing for the sake of the Endangered Species Act.

Mt McLoughlin and some transportation

Biking to work every morning has helped us navigate this town with ease, while cruising the lake during our first week’s afternoon hours in the radio telemetry boat, and watching the sun come up over the hills as we pull in our last larval set from the Williamson River Bridge almost makes me never want to go back to daytime work.

Larval collection sunrise

I feel I’ve gotten my bearings around town as well as an understanding of what makes Klamath Falls so special. The stillness of snowy Mount Mcloughlin’s reflection on the lake is broken by the Clarks Grebes “rushing” mating dance—a graceful but intense side-to-side stretching and bobbing of the male’s and female’s necks followed by a simultaneous “running” on the lakes surface before both birds dive below the water. White pelicans fly overhead and it sinks in that we are here, and we too are lucky to call this lake home for the next five months.

White pelicans about to take flight

Extra Extra! Update! Larvae waits for no woman

Larval Collection sample vid

Two weeks later: success! We’ve now been USFW for four weeks and we’ve got some news! Last week we had switched back to normal diurnal hours to complete an online electrofishing training, and the larval counts had begun without us! (Collections were still occurring, we just weren’t the ones carrying them out.) With a retrieval of thirty larvae the first day, a few hundred the next, as the week went on and the water warmed, by the time we were back on our 2am coffee-dependent work schedule, our catch had skyrocketed. This Monday marked our first day back on night work, and our haul had us bringing in ten thousand suckers by morning!

View from the bike path that takes us to work, Klamath Falls’ lifeline is the intricate network of waterways that seem to flow trough the town.

Welcome to Wyoming!

Welcome to Lander, Wyoming – where the views are great and the people are even greater!

The Wind River Mountains observed from a high point in Johnny Behind the Rocks recreational area.

It’s been 4 weeks since I’ve began my position here and I already feel so fortunate to have been placed at the BLM Lander Field Office. Everyone around the office has worked hard to be inclusive and make me and my SOS partner, Shannen, feel right at home.

The first few weeks consisted of orientation tasks, safety training, and some other office work. We are beginning to get a really good handle on GIS and the other software and equipment we will be using on the job.

April and May have proven to be the two wettest months here in Lander. There have been several days of rain and snow, followed by a couple days of sunshine, then back to rain and snow again. It seems the plants may be a little further behind this year, but we are using the free time to conduct surveys for rare plant species at Johnny Behind the Rocks – a recreational trail system 20 minutes southeast of Lander. There are currently 14 miles of trails in the area and 40 more miles have been proposed for construction within the next few years.

Shannen and I have been out and about looking for 3 special status species within a 20-foot corridor around the proposed trails. These species include Phlox pungens, Physaria saximontana var. saximontana, and Trifolium barnebyi.

Physaria saximontana var. saximontana (Rocky Mountain Twinpod) is a BLM sensitive species found within the Mustard Family.

In addition, we were given the opportunity to go out in the field with a researcher from WYNDD (Wyoming Natural Diversity Database) who is studying the Trifolium barnebyi present in Red Canyon along with the pollinators there.

So far this has been a wonderful experience and I’m very excited for all of the vegetation to bloom so that we can dive more deeply into Seeds of Success. Stay tuned!

Castilleja (Indian Paintbrush) is the state flower of Wyoming.

USFWS Klamath Falls – The Beginning

Southern Oregon is as spectacular as always! I am excited, nervous, and humbled to be a 2019 CLM intern working for the US Fish and Wildlife Service in Klamath Falls, Oregon. It has been a long while since I have spent any significant time away from the Seattle area and I couldn’t ask for better circumstances under which to fly the coop. We will be assisting the office with primarily fisheries projects for two, listed, endemic suckers. The list of wildlife species the field office is in charge of is impressive and includes icons like Oregon spotted frogs, grey wolves, bald eagles, spotted owls, bull trout, and fishers. We can certainly tell that there are growth opportunities (career and otherwise) available to us everywhere here.

Klamath Falls is surrounded by designated national monuments, parks, forests, recreation areas, refuges, and sanctuaries. We can see Mount Shasta and Mount McLoughlin most days from our work sites! Our first day we had the chance to see endangered Lost River suckers (Deltistes luxatus) spawning in the Williamson River and along the rocky shoreline of Upper Klamath Lake. Cold springs feed into the lake, making the water beautifully clear at certain spots. A particular spot called “Sucker Springs” was clear enough to take great pictures of the suckers at the shoreline. It was a fantastic introduction to the endangered species work we’ll be doing here.

USGS Survey Site

USFWS Klamath Falls Hatchery Pond

Jessie, Brianne, and I have varied school and work experience we bring to this internship and we are tackling each new thing together. During our first two weeks we:

  • Met our stellar coworkers and got a feel for the USFWS Klamath Falls Field Office
  • Learned the history and geography of the area and our primary work sites
  • Assisted in processing Lost River sucker and Shortnose sucker (Chasmistes brevirostris) juveniles for Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) tagging
  • Took the research skiff on Upper Klamath Lake to stock and then released PIT tagged endangered sucker juveniles
  • Helped construct tank plumbing and shrimp brine tanks at the USFWS fish hatchery
  • Started 2 am larval collections from the Modoc Rd. bridge over the Williamson River. Lost River and Shortnose sucker larvae that we collect will be raised at the FWS hatchery and eventually released. We get to see the sunrise on Mount Shasta, the foothills, and fields around Klamath Falls afterwards. Brianne caught some epic photos of a flock of pelicans taking off in the morning light
  • Joined for bat surveys with the National Park Service at the Camp Tulelake site to check for the presence of White Nose Syndrome. I loved seeing the process for identifying the first bat caught, learning how bat surveys are conducted, and assisting with mist net set up and take down! Hopefully we’ll be joining again in a few weeks. Camp Tulelake is a set of historic buildings that were built originally for the Civilian Conservation Corps and later, tragically used as an internment camp for Japanese Americans during WWII. It was extremely humbling to work there

5am Post-Larval Collection Drive to Hatchery

Bat Surveys – Myotis volans

We are all excited about the opportunities available to us at this field office. It has been great getting to know everyone’s work style and the path they have taken to get to where they are now. I miss my fiancé Jordan but we both agree the natural beauty of the area and the endless list of career building opportunities available to me here lessens the sting of leaving home for the next 4 ½ months.

I have been warming up my drawing hand and have worked on illustrations every work day during these first two weeks. I’ll continue to work on this skill as the internship goes on. There is so much material to work from. I’m surrounded by migrating birds, mountain views, flowering plants, and fascinating fish.


Till next time!

Jennifer Ginn

USFWS Klamath Field Office

The Alaskan Adventure Begins!

I arrived in Anchorage a couple of weeks prior to my start date with high hopes of seeing some wildlife, and at the off chance of catching the northern lights in a late winter sky. Almost a month later and two weeks into my work with the BLM Fairbanks office and I’ve seen moose, caribou, bald eagle, peregrine falcons, a black bear wandering the boreal forest, and even managed to catch a glimpse of the aurora.

Botanically speaking, we’re still a week or two from the legendary “green up” that occurs over a matter of days. The stoic frost covered landscape buttressed by white birch bark and evergreen spruce will soon give way to a flurry of spring foliage, the chirp of songbirds, and endless sun. Through phenological adaptations, vegetation has managed to survive harsh seasonal changes that limit their growth this far north. Dwarfism in arctic and alpine plants is common; warmth near the surface is highly valuable, and the differences in temperature between a few inches and a few feet above the ground is larger than in a more temperate climate. Staying small allows plants to hold on to moisture and warmth. Other struggles associated with harsh winters include freezing rain as well as the freeze thaw cycles that result in bowed and partially fallen trees. You can see in this photo the dramatic bowing of birch trees that are rooted into an expanding wetland – they’re often referred to as “drunk trees” because they’re falling all over the place! This is caused by pressure exerted on the soils through expansion during the winter freeze followed by a release of pressure in the spring thaw – it’s the same process that causes all those potholes in Chicago, just on a larger scale!

The real botanic work of the internship won’t begin until leaves and wildflowers sprout in the coming month, of course along with all those not so lovely invasive plants too. Nonetheless, preparations for the field season are well underway with bear awareness training, shotgun certifications, and the occasional field trip to make sure monitoring equipment survived the winter. We drove out to the White Mountains last week to check in on some stream monitoring gear and set up a camera to capture ice break up at Birch Creek with the BLM hydrologist in the photo below. Snowmobiling out there was a bit of an added bonus as up there in the Whites the truck couldn’t quite make it out to the creek!

The first couple of weeks have been an incredible welcome to Fairbanks and the state of Alaska as a whole. I can’t wait for more of the same as the field season kicks off soon!


Starting out in Wyoming

Ike and I at Red Canyon.

Greetings from Lander, WY!

Although I haven’t yet finished two full weeks, I have already learned and experienced enough for a much longer period of time. Of course there has been the traditional office work (trainings, meetings, etc.), which have been helpful, but ultimately, the field days have been the most exciting by far. Already, I have been to JBR (Johnny Behind the Rocks, a trail-based recreation area with a gorgeous view of the Wind River Mountains), Red Canyon, and a site near Tough Creek. At JBR, we have conducted (and will continue to conduct) BLM sensitive plant surveys for Phlox pungens (Beaver Rim Phlox) and Physaria saximontana var. saximontana (Rocky Mountain Twinpod). At Red Canyon, we had the opportunity to assist a pollination biologist from Laramie in putting out vane traps, as well as helping with hand pollination and bagging specimens. It was a great day, both because of the tasks and the company:) Two of the nearby ranch dogs followed us in the field for almost 8 hours and were very sweet as you can see! More recently, we attempted to look for voucher specimens for Eriastrum wilcoxii (Wilcox’s Woolystar) and Lupinus pusillus (Dwarf Lupine). However, it has been a little cool this Spring, so unfortunately we couldn’t collect any specimens yet. But we did find some very young Lupinus pusillus (see pic)! Anyway, it has already been a wonderful experience so far and I can’t wait to see what the next 5 months has in store!

CLM three years later

Hello! I’m Laura, a returning CLM intern working for the New Mexico Bureau of Land Management (BLM-NM)’s state office (NMSO) in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I was a CLM intern in 2016 collecting seed for Seeds of Success (SOS) for the Mid-Atlantic Regional Seed Bank in Staten Island, New York. I collected seed across Long Island, New York, for conservation seed banking and restoration projects for coastal ecosystems degraded by Hurricane Sandy.

An East Coast prickly pear (Opuntia humifusa) in Long Island!

Three years later, I’m assisting the state botanist at NMSO develop outreach materials for BLM-NM’s Plant Conservation Program, using ArcGIS to find suitable habitat for sensitive species in an Area of Critical Environmental Concern, and preparing for the 2019 seed collection field season.

In March, I presented a poster on the BLM-NM’s Plant Conservation Program at a restoration conference in Fort Collins, Colorado. The HAR SER-RM 2019 Conference was jointly hosted by the High Altitude Revegetation Committee (HAR) and the Society for Ecological Restoration-Rocky Mountain Chapter (SER-RM) to explore the possibilities of ecological restoration and revegetation in diverse ecosystems.

Presenting a poster on the New Mexico BLM’s Botany Program at the HAR-SER-RM Conference

It was inspiring to see non-governmental organizations, academic institutions, state and federal agencies, and private companies and landowners collaborating from different perspectives to protect and restore natural resources that affect all of us. Presenting the poster and networking with other conferees reinforced how science, restoration, and natural resource management are interconnected and synergistic.

The BLM-NM is tasked with the huge task of managing over 13 million acre of land in New Mexico—the state with the fourth highest floristic diversity in the country. There are many threats to plant communities in New Mexico, and conversely, many opportunities for restoration. BLM-NM oversees ecological monitoring, rare plant monitoring, and native plant materials development.

BLM offices throughout the country use the Assessment, Inventory, and Monitoring (AIM) Program to monitor botanical, soil, and ecological resources on public lands. BLM-NM AIM crews have collected data from three field and district offices throughout the state. I actually was an AIM technician in Kemmerer, Wyoming with the Great Basin Institute in summer 2018!

Sagebrush Steppe in Wyoming

BLM-NM also monitors rare plants. Started in 2017, the Rare Plant Monitoring Program has established over 75 demographic trend monitoring plots for seven rare species. These species were selected because their restricted ranges overlap with high impact zones, mainly related to energy development and recreation.

The program I’m most involved with is native plant materials development. BLM-NM is part of the Southwest Seed Partnership (SWSP), a collaborative effort to improve the supply and diversity of native plant materials in the Southwest. To supply ecologically appropriate plant materials, the SWSP develops target species lists, collects seed, and works with farmers to increase wild-collected seed in seed production fields. The SWSP was started by the Institute for Applied Ecology (IAE), BLM-NM, and Forest Service Region 3 in 2015.

I was an intern with IAE in the fall of 2018 collecting native plant seed for the National Park Service (NPS) throughout Northern and Central New Mexico. Working with IAE and the SWSP connected me to BLM-NM, and my current position. Seed collection is one of my favorite types of fieldwork. It’s a tangible way to contribute to conservation and restoration—collecting living seeds that have the potential to become plants that stabilize soils, prevent erosion, enrich soils with nutrients, and provide food and habitat for wildlife and pollinators.

Red whisker clammyweed (Polanisia dodecandra) at Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico

In 2016, I hoped that I would be collecting seeds again, but I couldn’t have guessed that my career would take me to the diverse landscapes of New Mexico and conferences in the Rocky Mountains. Thank you CLM for providing me with these opportunities for growth and change—I wouldn’t be here without you.


Laura Shriver

BLM—New Mexico State Office

Rare Plant Conservation Strategy Rollout Meeting

This past week has been a big step in rare plant conservation for New Mexico. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) New Mexico State Botany Department helped the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department (EMNRD) host the New Mexico Rare Plant Conservation Strategy Roll Out Meeting, held March 26 and 27 in Santa Fe. Esteemed conservationists and botanists from several federal and state agencies convened to discuss ways to protect and monitor rare and endemic species across New Mexico. As an intern with the BLM, my responsibilities at the meeting included: 1) arranging tables and chairs, 2) making gallons of coffee, and 3) shmoozing. My fellow intern, Laura, was responsible for note-taking, which totaled 29 pages after two days. I don’t envy her at all.

Laura poring over her detailed notes from the meeting.This meeting presented various aspects of the New Mexico Plants Conservation Strategy. The organization was formed in 1999 as the NM Rare Plant Technical Council, which does the taxonomic dirty work of reviewing reclassifications and adding or removing taxa from the Rare Species List. The Technical Council is still at the core of the Conservation Strategy, but this meeting added other subcommittees that work on outreach, intergovernmental agreements, research, data sharing, and partnerships. All of these projects are interrelated, so I’ll detail the ones that stood out to me.

Daniela Roth, the state botanist at the EMNRD, has worked with other partners to assemble a Conservation Scorecard and an Important Plant Area map. These tools can be used together by land managers to evaluate strategies for conservation and potential impacts of development. The scorecard, which is incredibly detailed and evaluates threats, knowns and unknowns, population trends, and management and monitoring needs, is available only to Rare Plant Conservation partners. The Important Plant Area map is free to all on the website, although it doesn’t specify which rare plants are where. Conservation of rare (and often beautiful) species can be delicate; not all botany aficionados are interested in preserving biodiversity, and some will collect endangered specimens. The conference has moved towards a more inclusive definition of ‘rare’ plants, part of which includes making the broad list available to the public on the NM Rare Plants site. Since this website is a one stop shop for land managers and citizens looking for information on the rare flora of New Mexico, it makes sense to include as many species as possible under all possible definitions of rare. This website will be a hub for outreach and education, and there are plans to collaborate with graduate students from UNM and NMSU to expand our baseline of knowledge on rare species.

Another big push from the meeting is to get rare plants included on the New Mexico Game and Fish Department (NMGFD) Wildlife Action Plan. Each state’s Fish and Wildlife Department submits these plans to the USFWS as a condition for receiving federal funding for conservation. These Action Plans are important because grant-giving NGOs such as IUCN and NatureServe give preferential treatment to the species they include. However, the NMGFD isn’t involved in plant conservation– traditionally, plants aren’t considered wildlife. That didn’t stop eight other states from including plant conservation in their Wildlife Action Plans, so there’s hope that the New Mexico Wildlife Action Plan will be updated. There’s also a favorable political atmosphere because the newly elected governor is more interested in natural resource conservation than her predecessor. Considering that the governor appoints the heads of various state departments, it’s looking hopeful that the newly-led NMGFD would be interested in joining forces with our coalition in order to better conserve rare plants.

Meetings like this can cause major headaches at times. A very respected and knowledgeable botanist objected to including a lichen on the list on the grounds that it’s not a true vascular plant. He also claimed that any lichen we have significant occurrence data for is too common for conserving, which is a strange Catch Twenty Two that wouldn’t leave much for the group to work on. The lichen was included in the end, because if the Rare Plants Conservation Strategy didn’t include it, no one would. This meeting was dominated by five or six strong personalities, and while their strength is needed to influence policy and secure funding, there were certainly tense moments. All this lowly intern had to worry about was keeping the coffee fresh and staying out of the way, so it was instructive to watch from the sidelines.