See you in 2017!

It’s the last week of my nine-month internship here in Wenatchee, WA, and things seem to have come full circle. The foothills are snowcapped again, reminding me of the way they looked in March when I first arrived in this valley. After a final flurry of fall fieldwork including a riparian restoration project, seed collection, and AIM monitoring of ESR seeding treatments, I’m back in the office full-time, struggling to make it through days that would have flown by if spent out in the field. I’m already brushing up on my early spring wildflowers, hoping to get a head-start before CLM internship 2.0 begins!

One of the beaver exclosures built as part of a riparian restoration project

One of the beaver exclosures built as part of a riparian restoration project

I knew I wanted to be a CLM intern since I first discovered the program in 2014. I was a senior in college, and my conservation biology advisor sent me an email with a link to the web page. I remember the way I lit up while reading about the various responsibilities interns might have…I wondered if it were really possible that I could actually be PAID to do those things that sounded more like fun than work! The whole thing just seemed too good to be true. Though I didn’t get an internship in 2015, I tried again, ended up here, and discovered that it’s even better than I’d imagined. The incredible, fascinating flora of this region reignited my passion for botany–when the foothills were in their full spring bloom, I felt like a kid in a candy shop every time I was out in the field.

Bitterroot--still my favorite Washington plant!

Bitterroot–still my favorite Washington plant!

That’s not to say the whole field season was fun and games, though. I pushed myself to new limits during this internship, and discovered a physical and mental toughness I didn’t know I had. Hiking over the steep terrain of this region whipped me into the best shape of my life, I experienced fieldwork in hundred degree heat, and I made it to the top of countless hills that at the time I was sure would kill me. I spent days at a time camping at remote field sites, with neither showers nor reliable cell service. I’m glad things weren’t always easy, because these challenges have made me a stronger person and a more valuable field worker.

Something I did not expect, but am grateful for, is the amount of experience with GIS this internship has given me. In general, I find technology pretty daunting, and will always opt to go outside rather than do computer work if given the choice. But seeing all the ways my coworkers at the BLM used ArcMap, and using it myself as an integral part of my tasks, made me realize what a valuable tool it is for land management.

My position here in the 2017 field season will be the same as my current position–I’ll be focusing on post-wildfire emergency stabilization and rehabilitation, which means that once again I’ll be hiking through recently burned BLM parcels, sending up puffs of ash with every step and likely mapping lots of weeds. But with the relatively light wildfire year we had here in Washington, it looks like we won’t be quite as swamped with ESR, and will likely be spending more time doing things like wildlife surveys. With any luck, I’ll be posting pictures of sage grouse on here a few months from now!

Katherine Schneider, BLM, Wenatchee, WA Field Office


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