Through the first four weeks of this internship I have been constantly comparing this summer to my past summer as a CLM intern. A little background: last summer I lived in Cedarville, CA at the Surprise Field Office (The name comes from the Surprise Valley, where Cedarville, resides). Cedarville is an amazing place, unlike anywhere I’ve ever been before. Coming from the Northeast, it was quite a transition. There are about 550 people in Cedarville, and less than a thousand in the whole valley. The closest town of any significance is Alturas (~2,500 pop.). Other than that it was Reno, Redding, or Klamath Falls, which were about 3 hours away. Needless to say, the area was isolated. This was both a challenge and a reward. The Surprise Valley really is the western experience, and if you like recreating outdoors, it was a great place as well. Botanically, the area was very challenging for me to get used to. Where were the trees?!? However, despite these challenges, I learned a lot about myself, living in a small ranching town, and the land management field.
Coming back for a second year has so far proved to be a great decision. Not only have I been able to contribute to my new field office in a way like never before (because of my past CLM internship), but I am also constantly becoming exposed to new land management challenges that were virtually nonexistent in the Surprise Field Office. A major focus for this office is oil and gas leasing, specifically coal bed natural gas. Because of this, the office is much bigger than I am used to (2-3 times bigger). It also means there is a whole host of associated environmental impacts. Although I probably won’t be directly involved with this part of the field office, I am trying to learn from others in the field office of the impacts of coal bed natural gas and its mitigation efforts. Fossil fuels and fracking are both “hot words” in today’s media, and I hope to educate myself on the issues and educate others with this firsthand experience.
Another issue which I wasn’t exposed to last year was the fragmented ownership of the area. Surprise Field Office, although located in California, has most of its resource area in Nevada. Nevada’s land area is 67% BLM, and the Surprise resource area was mostly BLM. Here surface ownership is mostly private and in many cases BLM is a minority land owner. Therefore, many times we have to call landowners many days in advance to obtain permission to cross their land. This adds an extra element of planning into our work.
Botanically, there are many of the same species. Others from the West may say the areas are very different; however, coming from the East, these two areas look very similar compared to where I grew up. It has been nice to build on this botanical knowledge. Where last year I was overwhelmed by the amount of new species, this year I am able to take my time learning new species and identify ones I already know.
Buffalo and the surrounding area are gorgeous. The Bighorn Mountains to the West look like an excellent playground, and the rolling hills of the basin are truly spectacular. Although many say Buffalo is a small town (~4,500), it looks like New York City compared to Cedarville, and there always seems like there’s something to do. I’m very lucky to be in a great place with a job I love!