Scuttle About the Landscape

Although it is my first blog entry, I have been working at the Burns, OR BLM for over a month now. In this time I’ve gotten to see some country. The first week of work, I drove the county border with my fellow intern to get a sense of the area the BLM manages. The Burns office manages millions of acres. They manage land for multiple uses: this includes maintaining habitat for the sage grouse (a special status species), keeping the land healthy for cattle grazing, monitoring special status plant species, and rehabilitation after wildfire, among many other responsibilities. As a botany intern, I work on plant species monitoring in areas that have previously been burned. I also survey areas where there are populations of special status plants.

This past week we spent two nights down at the Hilton. Myself, the other intern, and the seasonal we work with stayed in the eight bedroom lodging in southern Harney County while surveying some burn areas. The weeds crew also stayed there, so I got to meet some of my fellow Burns District BLM employees. They spend six months spraying weeds like Russian thistle from ATVs in all weather and conditions. If it’s a weed, they spray it and don’t care much for the feelings of the plants. Monday and Tuesday of this week were extremely windy and cold. We did burn monitoring and I was glad we were not working up as high as the weeds crew, though the wind still cut through my four layers.

Wednesday we went even farther south to look for a special status plant. Sitting high up in our big truck, I gazed out the windows. The sky is really wide open here, not like where I’m from, where the sky is a thin passageway between trees that caress the sides of the highway. We zipped through Nevada, where the speed limit goes up fifteen miles to a cool 70mph. This was my first time in Nevada, and it doesn’t look much different from Oregon.

After a maze of rough riding on dirt roads, we pulled over. I’ve quite come to enjoy doing special status plant surveying. I get to scuttle about the landscape identifying whatever intriguing plants I come across. This site was dry, dry, dry. The branches of every plant were brittle. The sagebrush, usually light green in color, was tinged with yellow. We did not see a single forb. The area was fairly uniform and after an initial stream of identifications, we didn’t find much that was new. Still we gave it a good, thorough look. I climbed to the top of a hill, ranging out a ways, to see what I could find. As I walked, I kept my eyes on the ground, watching for rattlers. I have not seen a rattle snake yet, but those who know have told us to watch out for them and we’re supposed to kick the bushes before we reach down into them to identify. At the top of the hill the land spread out, rolling and cresting like waves. I took a few minutes to soak it in, then put my eyes back to the ground, and forged onward.

Onward to more surveying. Onward to more plants of special concern. Onward to new adventures.

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