Saving the Sacramento Mountains Checkerspot Butterfly

In the past four months of living in New Mexico, I came to realize how rich in biodiversity the state is. This is partly a result of the different life zones found here, which include desert shrublands, grasslands, woodlands, coniferous forests, subalpine, and alpine. Therefore, I get to explore the different life zones and their flora and fauna in my free time and at work. Since I have been here, I had the opportunity to survey an array of sensitive, endemic, and rare plants and animals, including Goodding’s onion (Allium gooddingii), Sacramento Mountain salamander (Aneides hardii), Sacramento prickly poppy (Argemone pinnatisecta), New Mexico meadow jumping mouse (Zapus hudsonius luteus), and the Sacramento Mountain checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas anicia cloudcrofti).

Sacramento Mountains Checkerspot Butterfly

This year, most of the plant species in our seed collection target list are nectar plants. The reason for this is that the seeds we have collected on LNF will be aiding the habitat restoration of the Sacramento Mountains checkerspot butterfly. This beautiful butterfly can only be found in the high-elevation subalpine meadows of the Sacramento Mountains in the Lincoln National Forest. Like other butterflies, the Sacramento Mountains checkerspot butter is reliant on a larval host plant, the New Mexico Penstemon (Penstemon neomexicanus).

However, the Sacramento Mountains checkerspot butterfly has been experiencing a serious population decline in the recent years due to habitat degradation caused by grazing, invasive and non-native plants, climate change, and altered wildfire regimes. As of this year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the butterfly as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act.

Habitat Restoration

Unfortunately, not a single checkerspot butterfly was found during the surveys this year. Nonetheless, protecting and restoring their habitat is still a critical process to ensure their chances of survival. For the past couple of years, the Southwest Institute for Applied Ecology (IAE) has led the effort in restoring the butterfly habitat in the forest. This year, the Forest Service, Albuquerque BioPark, and volunteers helped IAE plant more nectar plants in a meadow that had a low-density of nectar plants.

Over the course of two days, we planted roughly 2,000 nectar plant plugs that included their host plant (New Mexico penstemon), common yarrow (Achillea millefolium), spike verbena (Verbena macdougalii), and cut-leaf coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata). Some plugs were planted inside enclosures that have been built while others were planted outside across the meadow with seedling protections tubes placed on them.

Although it was repetitive work, it was incredible to see the number of people working towards the recovery of the Sacramento Mountains checkerspot butterfly. Moreover, it was incredible to see how our seed collection efforts this year will be implemented in future habitat restoration. I am very grateful to be part of this journey.

— Evie #Savethebutterflies

And just like that, September is gone…

We were off to a ~great~ start this month when we had a blowout driving down a mountain road! My fellow MCC intern and I found ourselves in a bit of a sticky situation when we were driving down a long Forest Service road and caught a flat tire. We luckily had one bar of service to look up how to get the tire off the back, but once we did, we were golden. It was definitely nerve racking doing this all on a hill, but the road continued at this incline for miles, so it was not feasible to keep driving to a flat location – less we want to damage the car. Either way, we fixed it and successfully changed our first tire! Peep the photo below – our Ram named “Gloria” – she has gotten us THROUGH IT this summer. Long Live Gloria!

A wild Aislinn in her natural habitat – taking on the challenge of changing a tire on an incline…

Other than the tire debacle, this month has been quite calm. Mostly seed collection – with might I say some of the best views of the valley thus far. It’s kind of amazing to think about how much of the bitterroot I’ve explored given that I’ve only been here for 4 months. I’ve surveyed miles and miles of land, driven extensively throughout the mountains, and seen acres and acres of forest. I feel very connected to the land after working on it so intensely. I don’t know where I’ll end up next, but I doubt I’ll have lunch views quite like I do now. (Sometimes I’ll just stop for a minute to admire the landscape, please don’t fire me…)

They call it Big Sky country for a reason!

It’s also been an amazing thing to see all of the wildlife. From Elk to Big Horn Sheep, we have seen so many amazing animals that we definitely don’t have back east. I have certainly become more observant when driving and hiking, and have found so many cool things in the forest. I think at first I was just so focused on the surveying because I wasn’t used to it. I had to sit and figure out so many plants because I wasn’t too sure what I was looking at yet. Now that I am pretty confident in my plant skills, I can be more observant to my surroundings. It’s a bit sad that just as I am more confident in my skills, the season is coming to an end. I of course still have a month here, but it’s sad to see my fellow seasonals leaving, the colors changing, and leaves falling. I will say I miss Northeastern fall (there is nothing quite like the Adirondacks changing colors in peak season), but the golden hues are ~almost~ as homey. I’m a bit nervous for the snow to begin in the valley, although it already has in the higher altitudes, but I am so excited to see how pretty it looks here with a fresh blanket of snow.

A young Big Horn Sheep watching us from the hill

Goodbye Alaska!

My final month in the Tongass went by as quickly as the previous three. It was a summer full of adventures, seed collecting, hiking, camping, swimming, and wildlife viewing. The Tongass is truly a magical place. The coastal temperate rainforest is such a unique ecosystem. It is so productive and filled with megafauna and old-growth stands, that make you feel like you were transported into Jurassic Park. Ketchikan seems to always be entrapped by thick clouds and a mist that makes the mountain’s features more mysterious. However, despite its reputation as one of the rainiest US towns, we had a beautiful summer filled with many consecutive sunny days. I began to long for the clouds and rain as plants and creeks started to dry up. After a few weeks in August, Ketchikan returned to its normal cloud coverage that I’ve grown to love.

We finished the season with collections from 20 different species. Aquilegia formosa (wild columbine), Aruncus dioicus (goatsbeard), Carex aquatilis (water sedge), Carex echinata (star sedge), Coptis aspleniifolia (fern-leaf goldthread), Chamerion angustifolium (fireweed), Gualtheria shallon (salal), Heracleum maximum (cow parsnip), Oplopanax horridus (devil’s club), Ribes bracteosum (stink currant), Rubus spectabilis (salmonberry), Sanguisorba officinalis (great burnet), Scirpus microcarpus (panicled bulrush), Spiraea splendens (rose meadowsweet), Tiarella trifoliata (three-leaf foamflower), Vaccinium ovalifolium (blueberry), and Vaccinium parviflorum (red huckleberry). In total we collected 1,577,772 seeds, weighing 17 lbs.

It was a very diverse group of species, that all have high value for restoration projects. For example, Cow Parsnip & Fireweed provide food and shelter to animals and pollinators. Plus, they are great for roadside disturbed areas and shade out the biggest nuisance in the Tongass: reed canary grass. We collected lots of fruit bearing shrubs that are great for wildlife and help stabilize the soil. The rest of the species were collected to help revive the stream banks after stream restorations.

Apart from all the seed collecting, we collaborated with other resource specialists on timber, watershed restoration, archeology, and recreation projects. I got to dip my toe into the other disciplines and expand my general knowledge. This experience I had out here was everything I wanted and more. I learned a ton about botany, coastal rainforests, restoration, and working for a government agency. This internship is definitely going to be instrumental in continuing a career stewarding our natural world.

I leave Alaska with a bittersweet kind of feeling. I am very grateful for this opportunity and so glad I accepted the offer to come almost 3,500+ miles from home to an area that I had no prior experience with. The Tongass National Forest holds a special place in my heart, and I look forward to making my way back here one of these days.

The Moth Mans Dastardly(?) Scheme

It was a dark and blustery night. Vigilante crime fighter; The JackPott and her sidekick Stone Throw sit perched atop a lone tree amongst the vast plain of prairie grasses. A breeze speeds across the landscape, birthing rippling shadows in waves of grain.

“Do you smell that?” JackPott inquires, inhaling a swath of the sweet scented air.

Stone Throws gaze unfocuses from the murky crystal which had captured her attention, miles away from the tree she currently occupies. *Sniff sniff*. “Crime….”

“Precisely!” With the speed of a pronghorn, the dynamic duo launches from their roost, landing in the front seats of their super-charged hover truck: The Grassmobile. The roof closes overhead as a dim green glow floods the cabin. “Stone Throw, time to turn it to 11!”

“On it boss!” Stone Throw swiftly inserts a cd into the stereo and cranks the volume knob as far as it goes, where a piece of tape labeled “11” has been placed over the 10 setting. YMCA by the Minions nearly fries the speakers.

“Lets ride!” And with the press of a button, The Grassmobile zips away with the unfathomable speed of a shooting star.

After a few minutes of zoomin, a shadow emerges and smashes into the winshield. The truck screeches to a stop, launching the figure forward. Our heroes leap out of the vehicle with the grace of two toads. The shadow raises from the brush, illuminated by the headlights. Large brown wings, red glowing eyes, and bushy antennae morph into clarity as the duo approaches. “Mothman!” They shout in unison.

“Yeeeees it is I, THE MOTHMAN,” he shouts in a cheesy 50s mobster accent, shaking a fist to the sky. “I have plotted and traveled for months to achieve my goal, and you two goons won’t stop me now, see!” With a powerful flap of his wings he zips into the air.

“He’s escaping! Get him!” Stone Throw summons a swarm of rocks from the surrounding landscape, preparing to launch the mineral mass at the fleeing criminal. Just as she’s about to launch her attack, however, The Mothman diverges from his trajectory, and makes a beeline, a mothline if you will, straight towards the still beaming headlights of The Grassmobile, bonking his head and knocking him cold.

When he awakens he’s tied up and unable to move. “There’s no escaping this time evil-doer! What have you been scheming?”

“Wahahahahah! Its too late fools! My plan is complete! The bugs have been released! Sweet Clover shall be no more!”

“Wait… you don’t mean to tell me your plan was to release bugs to eradicate sweetclover?”

“Yes… YES! Its the perfect plan! I’ve smuggled the grumbo bug which heavily preys on sweetclover into North America in order to eradicate one of the most prolific invasives to ever plague this landscape!”

“Oh, well I mean I guess that’s technically illegal but, uhh, well, does the gurmbo eat anything other than sweetclover?”

“Just Alfalfa.”

The two crime fighters look at each other and shrug. They untie Mothman and he flies off into the night.

Moral of the story: I really don’t like sweetclover.

Collecting, Conferencing, and Common Garter Capturing

Another month of seed collecting commenced with us taking the easy way out. Wonderfully, Midewin has their own seed beds which are populated by many desirable species that have the express purpose of being harvested for their seed. There is no searching and scavenging necessary, we can just go up to a plot and take them. Beautiful Bouteloua curtipendula was taken as well as Ceanothus americanus, commonly known as New Jersey Tea. We didn’t even have to follow the vaunted 20 percent rule because these are seed beds, we just eviscerated the whole population that was ready to be collected, but we’ll be back for them, don’t you worry. 

Bouteloua curtipendula
Ceanothus americanus

This month the team took a trip to the great state of Minnesota for the Grassland Restoration Network Annual Conference Extravaganza. All the heavy hitters of the prairie showed up as there was a star studded line up of scientists. We went to many sites that Minnesota Department of Natural Resources manages. Summer sites looked quite nice with a good mix of valuable prairie forbes and characteristic prairie grasses. But other sites they took us too were more of a mess and the discussion people had around these sites was eye opening to the management process of grassland restorations as well as just the scientific method in action. As the name of the group suggests, we did some networking and met some really cool people, such as the gals at Cook County Forest Preserve. Instead of a hotel, which is quite expensive, we decided to camp at a local state park which was fun at night with the beautiful night sky above us but when sleeping the bugs came out to play which was bugging me. But it was an overall wonderful experience to be a part of and I hope to be at the next one! 

There were lots of stars but you had to be there, phones aren’t great at capturing their majesty

By common garter capturing I don’t mean actually abducting the snake, of course not! I mean capturing beautiful moments with the snake like this. This batch of snake surveys produced more snakes than any other. One snake board had three (!) snakes under it which was quite exciting. The snakes also got excited as multiple times they defecated on me, but that is all part of the snake game. They are absolutely beautiful creatures that I am honored to hold anytime I get the opportunity. 

Me kissing a snake

With Plants of Concern, a program under the auspices of the Chicago Botanic Garden, we did some Panax quinquefolius monitoring. A commercially important species, we secretly delved into the forest to find the American Ginseng and count how many existed. More than expected were seen which was quite nice and I also found another animal bone for my collection.

Map) Where Does Ginseng Grow? | HerbSpeak - Your Botany Resource
Panax quinquefolius


Catching butterflies is harder than it looks….

Cleome serrulata with a visitor!

The destination: Curlew National Grassland. The mission: Find a Monarch. The crew: your favorite CLM interns (plus a few guests).

Alex with the tallest sagebrush in the world (maybe?)

As soon as we parked our trucks in the Twin Springs campground on the Curlew, I knew we were in for a good day. Alex and I were joined by our mentor, Rose, one of the botany interns, Carson, and an archaeologist, Ashley. We were waiting to meet up with the rest of our group for the day (a collection of NRCS, rec, and range people) when we noticed an absolutely massive population of Ribes aureum. If you’re unfamiliar, Ribes aureum (or Golden Currant) is a delicious native shrub, and it was out in full force. We quickly decided that it was time for our first opportunistic collection, and within moments everyone had a paper bag in hand and was carefully picking berries off of every plant in sight. The abundance was awe inspiring after months of waiting for a seed collection to complete, and the morning snack was much appreciated. About a half hour into our collection, Derek from the NRCS Plant Materials Center in Aberdeen, ID, showed us how the pros do it- racket in hand with a custom built canvas collection bag. Within mere seconds, he had out collected all of us combined.

you would not believe how good these tasted (or how many I managed to pick in a day)

While the Ribes collection was a great start to the day, it was not our objective for the day. We were all assembled to participate in the Monarch Bioblitz, a community effort across North America to collect data on Monarch populations. We were heading to a few known sites of Asclepias speciosa in order to look for monarch eggs, caterpillars, and adults.

Within minutes at our first site, we had spotted an adult monarch. An extensive survey of the milkweed in the area revealed many more of the beautiful iridescent eggs. Monarchs have a few distinct look alike species, but luckily none of the species that have visually similar eggs had a range that extended as far north as Idaho. Below are a few of the most common look alike species for Monarchs. While the Queen’s and Soldier butterflies have very similar eggs and larvae, the range does not extend to where we were surveying- that made life easier! The Viceroy adults are very similar in appearance to Monarchs, which can cause confusion, but if you look carefully you can see a distinct horizontal line on the Viceroy wings that is missing on Monarchs. Monarchs will also have a much slower flight pattern (flap-flap-gliiiide) while Viceroy has a much faster and more erratic flight pattern. These key differences are very important to note during surveys!

Monarch Life Cycle

The bright colors of monarch caterpillars and butterflies indicates to predators that they are not a great choice of meal… Because Monarch caterpillars exclusively feed on milkweed, they are full of a toxin called cardiac glycoside, which stops the sodium pumps in the bodies of predators that aren’t adapted to the chemical. Because of this defense, many species have evolved to mimic the bright patterns of the Monarch, despite not being toxic themselves!

Queen Life Cycle
Soldier Life Cycle
Viceroy Life Cycle- Notice the similarities between the wing pattern on the Viceroy and the Monarch!

At our second site, we finally got to put our butterfly nets into action. For first time catchers, we quickly learned that capturing butterflies is a LOT harder than it sounds. After tromping through a creek and many pricker filled plants, Cheryl used her bug catching skills to capture our first adult male monarch and demonstrated her superior butterfly catching form. Although we didn’t plan on tagging the butterflies we surveyed that day, we did take the opportunity of this first male to learn how to properly place the tag.

By the time we reached our third site, we had already surveyed around thirty monarchs. This site once again blessed us with a population of Ribes, which provided us a much needed snack. Although some of us (okay, maybe just me) got a little carried away with the berry foraging and forgot to look for butterflies, we did find two monarch caterpillars.

Caterpillars are classified into five different instars based on their development. The stages can be a matter of days apart and are determined by visual cues like banding or presence of spots. The instar stage was a hot debate every time a caterpillar was spotted, until we remembered the handy monarch guides that we had which described in detail several key differences between each stage. Go us for preparedness!

Map Photo
2023 Monarch Map- check out the live version, updated from citizen science reports, here:

So- Mission accomplished! We had a very successful survey of various milkweed populations, and are expecting to see the monarchs flourishing when we go survey again in a few weeks. Because monarchs are an endangered species, understanding the health of our populations is of extreme importance across North America! p.s. if you made it this far, enjoy the demonstration on how not to catch a monarch 🙂

Who knew catching butterflies was a team sport?

If interested, there are a lot of great resources for monarch biology, habitat, and monitoring efforts at these sources:

Western Monarch Milkweed Mapper

Monarch Butterfly Conservation | Xerces Society

Fall Is In The Air… and Lice Are In The Plants? 

Summer is transitioning into fall, and likewise, the prairie is in change as well. The flowering stalks of Compass Plants (Silphium Laciniatum) now limp low, fading into a haze of purple & yellow from Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardi) and budding Goldenrods (Solidago spp.). 

These autumnal blooms are an important food source for native pollinators as they prepare their nests or migrate for the incoming winter. Even the pollen from grasses may be foraged during times of dearth, offering valuable protein to numerous beneficial insect species. 

A Two-Spotted Longhorn Bee (Melissodes bimaculatus) stripping pollen from the anthers of a warm-season grass. 

The field season, however, is still in full swing at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie: Seed collection is ramping up as an entire summers-worth of seed nears harvest; and rare plant monitoring is still ongoing, including American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) and Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) in the local woodlands.

It’s also the perfect time for spotting the bright red seed capsules of Hispid False Mallow (Malvastrum hispidum) with Plants of Concern, and the showy purple blooms of the Leafy Prairie Clover (Dalea foliosa) at Des Plaines State Fish & Wildlife Area. 

As its seed ripens, Hispid False Mallow (Malvastrum hispidum) changes from green to red in color. 

Botany workshops have also been underway, offering opportunities to learn the graminoids and fully-aquatic plants of Midewin. During one lesson, two seemingly-different species of rush were placed at our table. Yet despite their wildly distinct inflorescences, both were actually an example of Torrey’s Rush (Juncus torreyi). 

One specimen, however, was inhabited by a gall-making psyllid, or “plant lice.” After laying its eggs, plant growth hormones are stimulated and a gall is formed, offering both food & protection to the developing nymphs hidden within.  

The specimen on the left is a galled form of Torrey’s Rush (Juncus torreyi); the one on the right displays its typical inflorescence.

Although Milkweed (Asclepias spp.) seed is not yet ready to collect — as indicated by its swelling green seed pods — we keep ourselves entertained by watching the equally-swelling Monarch caterpillars chow hungrily at the plants’ leaves. 

Soon these caterpillars will molt one last time to form a chrysalis, digesting and re-assembling itself until finally emerging as a butterfly — a transformation fit for the season of change. 

The caterpillar of a Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus) in its fifth and final instar. 

Dade Bradley

Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie

Rare Plants and Dolomite Prairies

Exposed Dolomite

Dolomite prairies house unique plant communities, the bedrock here is at or just below the soil surface. Like a slab of concrete or an abandoned foundation, the exposed bedrock looks out of place in this natural landscape. These prairies are seasonally wet; in the spring, rain and snowmelt fill the area with shallow water, and by summer, it becomes bone dry. These plant communities have adapted not only to the seasonally wet conditions but also to the high magnesium content of the soil due to the weathering of the exposed rock.

There are many rare plants that are restricted to the Dolomite prairies in Illinois, but one takes our time and attention like no other. Dalea foliosa, the leafy prairie clover, is a curious purple-flowered pea its flowers are arranged in dense spikes and it has the typical pinnately compound leaves. D. foliosa is federally endangered and is very much deserving of our time and attention.

According to NatureServe, there are approximately 8 occurrences in the state of Illinois. Habitat loss, fire suppression, and woody encroachment are still the driving factors of this species’ decline. Midewin is fortunate to have acquired 40 acres of dolomite prairie from a mitigation requirement of the neighboring ExxonMobil refinery. When monitoring and management began back in 2002, only 92 total plants were counted; today, we counted over 500. This population is far better now, but its isolation still poses a threat in terms of its genetic diversity.

We followed a very tedious monitoring protocol that involved counting vegetative and reproductive stems, aborted flowers, and stems browsed of each plant. We also collaborated with Fish and Wildlife to monitor two other populations on IDNR land. Midewin has worked hard to preserve this population, and it has paid off; however, this is never enough in a changing landscape. Threats of changing hydrology and freak accidents from the boarding railroad and refinery unfortunately remain a concern.

Photo Dump

I though it would be fitting to conclude my August blog with a collection of photos taken while seed-collecting and from our visit to the Chicago Botanic Garden. I hope you enjoy

The satisfying pull

After the long drought the skies have sent rain down the night before and the morning is ready for the seed collecting day. The air hangs overhead like a mist, bringing a cool touch to your arm. You look overhead to the cloudless sky and sigh with anticipation as a gentle breeze hits the back of your neck. A shiver runs down your spine underneath your field clothes as you tuck your wool socks into your pants. Any attempt to stop the chiggers from finding your ankles is an attempt worth taking. You reach for your trusted wide brimmed hat, your ally in the war with the brutal sun, and slip on your long sleeved over-shirt. The gear is collected: a small pair of cutters, small white paper bags, a big leathery plastic bag, and water. Just enough to collect what is needed and no more. Working with mother nature instead of against her is our number one job today.

Looking over the prairie is different than the last time. The blooming purple of Monarda fistulosa has died down as she gets ready to go to seed and is instead muted by greens and reds. Still too early for the yellow sea to flood in yet we are in a holding period between seasons. The quiet month of August is upon us. But mother nature is still hard at work, you just have to know where to look to see her true beauty. She makes you work for it but these species are the most complex of all.

Secret Ridge Prairie with a tall compass plant (Silphium lacinatium).

Bouteloua curtipendula is finally ready to collect as its deep purple seeds have now tanned to a pale brown. Close up the seeds are no bigger than the broken graphite piece of an extremely sharp wooden pencil. Yet far away the are much bigger. Hanging loosely on the small stem of the grama they are the easiest to spot in an upland prairie habitat. Outcompeting any of the bigger grasses in its way. The most exciting experience besides saying its name, is collecting the seeds.

Bouteloua curtipendula at Secret Ridge Prairie.

My ”task” for this morning is to honor the ecosystem and take 20% of her Bouteloua seeds. This way it benefits us and still leaves enough to have another generation thrive. Luckily it is doing very well in this prairie. With one swift motion you place your hand on the stem below the seeds and pull upward until all of the seeds are in your hand. Pure satisfaction in one swoop.

You continue to walk through the prairie, now feeling the extend of the sun on your back as you pull another Bouteloua seedhead. Satisfaction. Making sure to step light around the wide Baptisa alba plant to more Bouteloua. Pull. Satisfaction. Spot some Amorpha canescens but its seeds arent wuite ready yet, so you make a mental note to come back in a week to collect that. Pull. Satisfaction. And you find a big clump of Bouteloua surrounded my smaller vegetation. Pull. Satisfaction. Pull. Pull. Pull. Satisfaction. You look down at the little plants around it, its light delicate whorled leaves around a tiny little stem. Bright white complex inflourescence among the top of some plants. You think you know what it is! But there is one more step you need to do to make sure. Plucking a single leaf from the stem you look closely at the leaf as a small bubble of white liquid starts to form on the end. Your guesses are correct, Whorled Milkweed has made its way to the prairie.

Asclepias verticillata is one of the smallest milkweeds at Midewin, but what it lacks in size it sure makes up for in numbers in a population! At some points its almost a field of milkweeds surrounded by other plants. The small stature can be overlooked by people looking for the more charismatic plants, but Asclepias can hold its own. It even goes up against monarch caterpillars and survived their munching to produce little seed pods. She is one tough cookie.

Asclepias verticillata at Exxon Prairie with inflorescence in bloom.

The sun is beating down now as the time nears to noon on the prairie. Your stomach starts to call out in hunger and you have drank almost all of your water source in your bottles. You check your bags for your haul, a lot of Bouteloua was taken, but while looking around there is so much more that is left. Success in your collection. We survey our hauls at the truck, each had been successful in their species seed collection. You look back at the prairie, the whispers of bugs in the background as the clear blue sky screams hello. Its peaceful being around so much life and knowing that you are not destroying. Its enchanting knowing you are helping restore more places to look just like this. It is inspiring seeing so many people around you care so much about this planet. It is the satisfying pull of the job.

Castilleja Dreamin

20 Ounce Cheeseburgers,

Locals at the bar,

Fields of Castilleja,

In the old tire tracks of a car.

Seasons change, the Sun disappears.

Autumn is now upon us and in creep the pecuniary fears.

I never imagined that I would enjoy Fargo as much as I do

There’s plenty of large remnants up there, just waiting for me and you.

Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever make it back to Nelson Prairie

Although the Mahnomen landscape is burned into my mind.

Just getting there, driving over countless ponds, gives you such a rush.

Visions of Showy Ladies Slippers hiding beneath the brush.

But up there, as in many places across the nation, they are in a bind.

So much land, so few people, such little time – its oddly airy.

“We have no funding for permanent staff” the land managers all say,

“Those in Washington are always getting in our way!”

Grandstanding, Misallocating Money, and Freezing Up in real time,

It truly does make one wonder, is this coincidence or design?

But the remnants do not care, and without fire, pruning and love – they will degrade

Alas, it does not matter, as the politicians will still be paid.

Winter is quickly approaching, and it is that special time of year,

Where we send out never ending job applications,

Too many to count,

As we hold our breath in fear.

When will I work next, who will I work for, will I have to travel far?

In these moments, I’ll venture back to Nelson Prairie, mentally,

Then stop for a 20 Ounce Cheeseburger at Mainline Bar.

This poem goes out to all of the Seasonal and Temporary Biological Science Technicians based throughout the country, trying to afford living without healthcare, benefits or any long term guarantees.