Happy holidays everyone,
Hopefully you all have plans to see family or friends for the holiday season. I was home over Thanksgiving (Iowa) so I will not be returning for Christmas or New Years. Instead, I am opting to hit the slopes and hoping to avoid the typical crowds. This will be possible because we have finally gotten some PRECIPITATION IN NORTHERN CALIFORNIA. The news was predicting the “storm of the decade” and went on for days about preparing to be without electricity and stocking up on food. In the end, we had one gusty morning and then it drizzled for two days (I was unimpressed). I was, however, thankful to see the much needed rain. I think I saw about 8 rainbows in a single day.
As far as work goes, I am still chipping away diligently on my restoration projects. I have completed a draft CEQA document on my largest project, and have now begun the NEPA document. I am simultaneously writing contracts and installing infrastructure e.g. access roads and gates at the project site.
In between writing these documents, I am applying for a streambed alteration permit, a 401 permit, an endangered species act permit, and a 404 permit. I can’t eat lunch in California without getting a permit first. Having spoken to other project managers conducting large-scale restoration projects in California, I have learned that it is not uncommon for the cost of project permitting to be equal to or even more expensive than the cost of the actual project construction.
On a side note, a few months back our small staff at the Preserve constructed a barn that we had de-constructed from another BLM property in the Sierras several months earlier. We had no instructions, just pictures and a numbering system on the parts. Here is a final picture of the constructed barn (still standing after the “storm of the decade”).
It has been quite hectic since my internship ended and it feels like I’ve taken longer than I imagined to write my final reflective post.
I am very thankful to everyone who makes the CLM internship possible at the Chicago Botanical Gardens and at BLM. It’s been an extraordinary experience. There were days full of hard work and others that were quite relaxed but there was always learning going on.
I am very happy with my experience, the people I met and the skills I gained.
Due to staff changes right before the internship, my experience is likely to have been very different than that of past interns who may have had better planned and straightforward internships. That is not necessarily a negative thing because I feel this gave me the opportunity to have a wider range of exposure to different projects and staff at the office.
One of the best experiences I had was translocating prairie dogs. I believe that the conservation issues involving prairie dogs is in need of better solutions. There is much needed cohesion between BLM and outside knowledge from other organizations and institutions. If there is anything from this experience I would like to pursue, it would be the conservation of prairie dogs and pigmy rabbits.
Some advice I would give to other interns would be to ask your mentor about participating in as many training opportunities as you can.
When starting the internship it is good to take notes and pictures when learning plants because it helps the learning process considerably.
Most importantly, encourage yourself to think outside the box and express your ideas even if it seems to go against the usual way of doing things.
Thanks again everyone for helping me make this an incredible opportunity!
Greetings from Northeastern California!
It’s finally starting to feel like winter here, as I am writing this in the middle of “The Worst Storm California has had in Years”, according to weather.com. While it is only raining here in the valley, the nearby mountains should be getting a foot or two of snow!
I’ve been working on a few projects lately. I am working with the ELFO hydrologist to install some stream monitoring equipment in all the streams in our field office. The equipment we are installing measures the water temperature and the flow of the streams. It is nice to still be out doing field-work, and I am learning a lot about hydrology from working with the hydrologist. I did not expect to learn about hydrology when I signed up for a botany internship, but this is one of the great things about CLM: you gain experience in a lot of different areas.
Installing the equipment only takes about an hour, but getting to the locations takes some time. Yesterday I was hiking in some dense clay mud that stuck to my boots in giant clumps. It made hiking difficult, especially hiking over rocks, as the muddied-up boots had no grip on the rocks. This, with a 60 pound pack full of tools and steel pipes, can make climbing into a rocky canyon quite difficult. Nonetheless, we have successfully installed equipment at 6 streams so far.
I am also working on a project known as FIAT. (We have yet to be sued by the european car company). FIAT stands for Fire and Invasives Assessment Team. It is an effort to improve habitat for sage grouse. The biggest threats to sage grouse are conifer encroachment, fire, and invasive annual grasses. This project aims at pinpointing where these threats are most prevalent, and coming up with strategies to limit their impacts. I am helping with the GIS side of things. I have been attending meetings at several BLM offices and helping the ELFO GIS specialist create project area polygons. It has been interesting going to the different offices and seeing how much everyone knows about the land in their field office.
In other news, I broke my finger playing football on Thanksgiving. It hasn’t impacted my work at all, but it has made typing this entry a bit frustrating. The good news is, I have a doctors appointment in Reno tomorrow morning, and Reno is only 30 minutes from Mt. Rose Ski Resort, so… IM SKIING 2 FEET OF FRESH POWDER TOMORROW!!!!
Over the past few days, I have been visiting sites for the first time since before the rain came and have discovered all the areas where water is pooling. What was once a dried up patchwork of bunch grass and soil is now a wetland teeming with frogs, ducks, and geese. I took some time to bird watch spotting Northern shovelers, gadwalls, mallards, great egrets, great blue heron, red-shouldered hawk, Northern harrier, and a white-tailed kite! White-tailed kites are more commonly sighted this time of year because they are less dispersed, roosting communally during the winter. Sometime their roosts can have over a hundred individuals. Northern Harriers, with their white rumps, are one of my favorite raptors to watch as they hunt low to the ground, gliding just above the tips of the grass. I also get a kick out of the great blue heron, standing perfectly still, trying to decide whether or not I can see him. And when he finally takes off, he looks disgruntled for having been bothered. For whatever reason, I personify them as being old grumpy men with something to prove. As they fly off, I imagine them saying, “I still got wings”.
It has been an enjoyable, socked in Willamette Valley Winter so far. I am fortunate I get to roam around some of the few oak woodland habitats that still exist. Everything feels so soft this time of year, the edges blurred by the fog, the moss on the trees, the soggy ground. I wonder how I would feel differently if I didn’t have a heated shelter to return to, stocked with canned goods and frozen berries. I am glad I don’t have to dig for my stashed nuts when I get hungry. Those wild animals sure make me feel soft too.