When I left Cleveland, I did not know what to expect. The only certainty was that I was about to drive over 1500 miles west to work as a range land monitoring intern at The Bureau of Land Management in Lander, Wyoming. Two weeks in, I can say that I still have a lot to learn but I am excited about the road ahead.
After five days of driving, and doing some exploring on the way, I reached my destination. Despite the weather, (it snowed most of my first week in town) this small mountain town in central Wyoming was very welcoming. The people are very friendly, the landscape is awe-inspiring, and there always seems to be this aura of tranquility all around.
Although I was not able to get out into the field much my first week, the wintry weather allowed me to settle in at the office. I became acquainted with many affable coworkers, and began to gain appreciation for the wide variety of intriguing work done in the BLM office. Wild land firefighting, work with wild horses, archaeology. It was eye-opening to see how all these different facets of conservation converge.
Most importantly, the scope of my range monitoring duties began to come into focus. After two weeks on the job I still feel like I’m just getting my feet wet, but I have a firm grasp on what my duties will be as I ease into independence in the field. If I had to sum up my responsibilities in one word I guess it would be…cows? Counting the numbers of cows in a grazing allotment, looking at brands on cattle to derive their ownership, and making sure cows aren’t in areas they shouldn’t be. There’s also a fair amount of botany and other skills involved, but even then, these skills are used to monitor the grazing habits of cattle.
The Lander field office is responsible for more land than I imagined. I, together with another intern, will be largely responsible for monitoring a sizable chunk of that. It’s intimidating, but after a couple tours of the vast countryside, I think I’m beginning to get a grip on how to navigate it. Other than off-road driving skills, and a few short lessons in monitoring techniques and plant ID, I have a lot to learn. I’m eager to progress and I look forward to reporting back when I’m fully immersed in my work!