Hello! I’m Laura, a returning CLM intern working for the New Mexico Bureau of Land Management (BLM-NM)’s state office (NMSO) in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I was a CLM intern in 2016 collecting seed for Seeds of Success (SOS) for the Mid-Atlantic Regional Seed Bank in Staten Island, New York. I collected seed across Long Island, New York, for conservation seed banking and restoration projects for coastal ecosystems degraded by Hurricane Sandy.
Three years later, I’m assisting the state botanist at NMSO develop outreach materials for BLM-NM’s Plant Conservation Program, using ArcGIS to find suitable habitat for sensitive species in an Area of Critical Environmental Concern, and preparing for the 2019 seed collection field season.
In March, I presented a poster on the BLM-NM’s Plant Conservation Program at a restoration conference in Fort Collins, Colorado. The HAR SER-RM 2019 Conference was jointly hosted by the High Altitude Revegetation Committee (HAR) and the Society for Ecological Restoration-Rocky Mountain Chapter (SER-RM) to explore the possibilities of ecological restoration and revegetation in diverse ecosystems.
It was inspiring to see non-governmental organizations, academic institutions, state and federal agencies, and private companies and landowners collaborating from different perspectives to protect and restore natural resources that affect all of us. Presenting the poster and networking with other conferees reinforced how science, restoration, and natural resource management are interconnected and synergistic.
The BLM-NM is tasked with the huge task of managing over 13 million acre of land in New Mexico—the state with the fourth highest floristic diversity in the country. There are many threats to plant communities in New Mexico, and conversely, many opportunities for restoration. BLM-NM oversees ecological monitoring, rare plant monitoring, and native plant materials development.
BLM offices throughout the country use the Assessment, Inventory, and Monitoring (AIM) Program to monitor botanical, soil, and ecological resources on public lands. BLM-NM AIM crews have collected data from three field and district offices throughout the state. I actually was an AIM technician in Kemmerer, Wyoming with the Great Basin Institute in summer 2018!
BLM-NM also monitors rare plants. Started in 2017, the Rare Plant Monitoring Program has established over 75 demographic trend monitoring plots for seven rare species. These species were selected because their restricted ranges overlap with high impact zones, mainly related to energy development and recreation.
The program I’m most involved with is native plant materials development. BLM-NM is part of the Southwest Seed Partnership (SWSP), a collaborative effort to improve the supply and diversity of native plant materials in the Southwest. To supply ecologically appropriate plant materials, the SWSP develops target species lists, collects seed, and works with farmers to increase wild-collected seed in seed production fields. The SWSP was started by the Institute for Applied Ecology (IAE), BLM-NM, and Forest Service Region 3 in 2015.
I was an intern with IAE in the fall of 2018 collecting native plant seed for the National Park Service (NPS) throughout Northern and Central New Mexico. Working with IAE and the SWSP connected me to BLM-NM, and my current position. Seed collection is one of my favorite types of fieldwork. It’s a tangible way to contribute to conservation and restoration—collecting living seeds that have the potential to become plants that stabilize soils, prevent erosion, enrich soils with nutrients, and provide food and habitat for wildlife and pollinators.
In 2016, I hoped that I would be collecting seeds again, but I couldn’t have guessed that my career would take me to the diverse landscapes of New Mexico and conferences in the Rocky Mountains. Thank you CLM for providing me with these opportunities for growth and change—I wouldn’t be here without you.
BLM—New Mexico State Office