Though the weather in Lander, Wyoming has remained warm and sunny, unusual for early November, many other aspects of life here have changed; Hunting season has mostly wrapped up, all of the leaves have fallen, Halloween costumes came and went, seasonal shops have closed their blinds. Though my internship won’t finish until the end of November, many of the other seasonal workers in the Lander Bureau of Land Management Field Office have packed up and left. While some nights are a little quiet, I’ve been able to spend time with friends from town, taking pottery classes, playing trivia, going hiking and whittling down my reading list. It was great to have out-of-town visitors as I showed them the life I’ve established here and educated them on the amazing system of public lands in this country.
My work life has also changed these past weeks. The amount of fieldwork necessary for my rangeland monitoring position diminished very quickly as the grazing period concluded. With our final stubble height measurements complete, we patrolled for lost or forgotten cows hiding in ravines or beyond nolls. With the cows deemed gone, I helped other range specialists cross off fieldwork on their to-do list. I went out in the field for two days to work with out-of-office remote sensing and rangeland specialists to assist on a long-term monitoring project of theirs. They have been collecting soil temperature and production data on six sites, each with a grazed and un-grazed treatment section, to assess the effects of grazing on water retention capabilities. The working hypothesis, in essence, is that an un-grazed area will remain frozen longer into the spring, thus melting and retaining moisture later into the spring. I helped by clipping vegetation within the grazed and un-grazed plots at each site, and drying and weighing the clippings. I visited, and helped restore, a site where a long-term experiment is being conducted; they are analyzing the effects of faux beaver damns on the water retention abilities on grazed and un-grazed areas. The scientists hypothesized that a faux beaver damn, in flooding the creek, would return the area to a bog, increasing the water retention capability of the area.
Three of the other projects I helped out with in the field were: fixing a fence around a pasture in order to ensure the removal of livestock and wild horses before a prescribed burn (which I’ll hopefully watch!), seeding native seeds as part of a post-burn rehabilitation project with the fire crew, and seeding native seeds and planting sagebrush seedlings to help the botanist and archeologists restore a petroglyph site. In the office I’ve been assisting the remote sensing specialist in the categorization of vegetation type in images along transects. I’ve assisted the GIS specialist with digitizing range improvement projects, and edited NEPA documents. I went to a local school to help present on the BLM to 4th graders (4th graders in the parks) and 8th graders (a geological hazard presentation). Definitely one of the best parts of the internship has been working with, assisting, and learning from a large range of specialists!
As my personal and work lives have shifted, and will continue to shift, so has the political environment. With every political transition in Washington D.C., though this one may be more significant than others, there is a transition in the BLM. While it is impossible to predict how these changes will be felt across the country and the DOI, we need to advocate for our public lands. Though I barely knew anything about the vast system six months ago, I now feel that they are one of the United States’ largest assets. In the wake of the Malheur trial and the election it is imperative to protect and work for our public lands!
Bureau of Land Management
Lander Field Office