To continue the saga I will pick up where I left off, on my way to the Contento family stomping grounds, Chicago.
Walking into the Chicago Botanical Garden for the first time, every memory and picture of what Chicago was that I had in my mind was wiped clean. The cold winters where I was introduced to long wool coats, wind burn and tall buildings, paled in comparison to the abundance of exotic flowers and islands in the web of lakes that is the garden. (I should probably just admit I am not a city girl). This garden is 385 acres, home to prairie lands, a butterfly garden, a pinyon pine bonsai that is 300 years old, tropical greenhouses with a giant gummy bear looking plant sculpture, more ponds than people, red winged black birds, miniature tree gardens and a whole bunch of plant nerds.
If you were thinking that I just described paradise, you would be correct. Besides the amazing line up of researchers, presentations and plant ID, this was like summer camp for plant lovers. I couldn’t have ask for a better time.
After getting back from back east we headed west to Meeker for some Physaria congesta and obcordata. Lucky for us this meant some quality time counting over 2,000 P. obcordata with another CLM intern out of the Meeker field office whom I had met the week prior in Chicago. After hours on our knees with our faces 20 cm from the ground, made better with the good humor and constant positive outlook of Anna Wilson, we wandered around to find other Physaria plots to create a better picture of the plant populations on a landscape level.
Part of the fun of being in the BLM State Office is that we get to work with different district offices on rare plant projects. Some of the fun of working with Carol Dawson is getting to work with a variety of great people. For this project we had to pleasure of meeting up with Mit McGlaughlin and his summer field botany class from the University of Northern Colorado. Looking for Astragalus osterhoutii and Penstemon penlandii with a group full of mostly pre-med majors presented its hurdles, but luckily their enthusiasm and Mit’s sense of humor made the week another enjoyable gathering of plant people.
The Arapaho & Roosevelt National Forests area where this T&E monitoring was located was an interesting place. Our camp site ran alongside a conveyor belt that was holding the bounty of molybdenum from the Henderson mine about a tenth of a mile from our camp site. The area where we were monitoring was near the Wolford Mountain reservoir that, when created, flooded much of the existing population of these two plant species. In addition, when considering the plant for listing it was predicted that the reservoir would get so much use that the plant would be in danger. On the bright side, in the three days that we were out there we only saw 2 boats and 1 person fishing. All of these factors were then exacerbated by the fact that, in order to create more fodder for cattle in the area, in the 1950’s, 4 lbs per acre of Crested Wheat grass was planted near the reservoir. This grass is potentially out competing the Penstemon and Astragalus for resources.
Working with so many different organizations has been such a highlight for me in this internship and we were not disappointed when again, last week we met up with a group of people from the Forest Service, BLM and Mosquito Range Heritage Initiative. Counting the large number of very small Eutrema penlandii would never have been possible without the 17 people who joined us in the alpine habitat in the Mosquito Range. This little guy, found only in Park county loves fen areas, where Pikas chirped at the churning of the clouds and the rumble of the impending storms and where the peaks of 14’ers loom in the distance. It was such a pleasure to experience new areas, new people and new insight into how Fish and Wildlife, BLM, Forest Service and non profits work together for the good of a species.
At some point in all of this Denver had a little visit from a man named Ryan Zinke. It was an awesome opportunity to not just read a news article about the Secretary of the Interior but see him in person. There was a few hard hitting questions regarding climate change and National Parks preservation which made the talk worth while and was also a nice day to sit in the grass outside. Starting up here in August we have our last few field outings. I am excited to delve into some data, collect some seeds, and learn a little bit more about some endangered plant species.
Colorado State Office BLM