Final Internship Report
This semester I have been working on an internship with the United States Forest Service under the guidance of Kathy Campbell. The focus of the internship is to compile a history of the areaís land use and restoration projects and make an assessment as to how effective they have been. I also am putting together a list of possible restoration projects in the meadows. I feel that this internship went relatively well, but I donít feel that my objectives were achieved during the time I spent working.
The Brock and Jarboe meadows complex is located in Union County Oregon in the Walla Walla district of the Umatilla National Forest. It is approximately 1500 acres of wet and dry meadows interspersed with stands of quaking aspen and cottonwood trees. The complex consists of Upper and Lower Brock meadows and Jarboe meadow. Jarboe Creek passes through or adjacent to all three meadows.
Historically, Brock and Jarboe meadows have been a major elk calving area. Because of the abundance of summer forage and coniferous cover on level terrain and the proximity to Jarboe creek, 150-300 elk use the area each spring for calving and rearing habitat.
In the early 1900ís, the area was used as a base for sheep operations. The meadows later underwent heavy cattle use and barbed wire fence was widely used to corral them.
The meadows are in desperate need of help because of past land use. Currently the aspens and cottonwood stands throughout the meadows are being encroached upon by noxious weeds and non-native plants. The elk, cattle and sheep have also browsed the stands to nearly nothing and planting of new stands has not worked in the past. A significant amount of logging in the area has thinned the forested stands. Over browsing by sheep, cattle and elk has reduced the amount of aspen and cottonwood within the riparian zone so the bank of the creek is collapsing. This problem is further enhanced due to the removal of beavers from the area. The water quality is relatively low and fish populations are down. A few culverts also block the creek creating a small reservoir and causing problems for anadromous fish.
Over the past year, many restoration projects in the meadows have been done and many more are in the works. Young aspen and cottonwoods have been planted and fenced in 21 sites. The culverts have been removed and the Forest Service is hoping to reintroduce beavers into the creek in order to stabilize the banks of Jarboe creek. Cones have been collected for spring planting. Sheep and cattle grazing allotments have not been renewed due to its impacts on the meadow.
During this internship I have done many things. I looked through many files on both meadows in order to obtain a general picture of the problems and land use history in the meadows. I also sorted through files within the Forest Service office for additional information regarding land use and previous restoration projects. My sponsor has all of the current information and also compiled the information on the meadows for about the last fifteen years. It took me a long time to sort through all of the files and find the history of the meadows pre-1985. My sponsor wasnít sure where the information was or if it even existed.
My sponsor believed that Boise Cascade owned the land before the Forest Service, but she was unsure. When I called them they admitted that they believed they had owned the land but they were unsure when or which parts they had possessed. When I asked them for further information they informed me that they didnít have time for such trivial affairs and that I should call back later. The woman suggested that I call back and ask for the information again. I called her back twice more and received the same answer from several other departments within Boise Cascade. I decided to call back one more time, and when I did they had me speak to another person who assured me I was wasting both their time and mine and please not to call back again. I must say that the response from Boise Cascade seemed to indicate their disinterest in the subject. If someone else does this internship or one similar to this one, good luck dealing with them.
I was a little bit frustrated at times because if was difficult to get in touch with my sponsor and she was often out of town so I was unable to access files. I often felt that I would not be able to achieve much of anything and wouldnít be able to get much information that they needed or wanted. I was supposed to take a trip out to the meadows but there was a large windstorm and then it quickly snowed, making our trip impossible.
I feel that I gained a lot from this internship. It was nice to get off of campus and do something related to the environmental field. I really enjoyed working with my sponsor. She is very knowledgeable and extremely passionate about the meadows. She also helped me to connect with other people that had information. I have also gained the ability to work on my own time and take the initiative to get a job done with little guidance and a broad objective.
Although this internship was very frustrating, I learned how to talk to people who can be very difficult and unwilling to give information. It was difficult to obtain much information because previous owners who had exploited the meadows constantly gave me the runaround. I did learn a lot about dry and wet meadows and the complexity that surrounds obtaining grants and other funding for restoration projects. I also learned how difficult it is to understand an ecosystem completely and to restore habitats to their natural states. I also learned a lot about elk and other organizations that are trying to protect elk.
If other Environmental Studies students do this internship it would probably be better for them to help Kathy and Betsy in coordinating a project in the meadows and finding volunteers at Whitman to help complete the project. Some projects that could be done are possible riparian planting along Jarboe creek or planting and caging hardwoods in the aspen and cottonwood stands within the meadows. Another possible project would be removing barbed wire from within the meadows. One of the most frustrating aspects of this internship was that people outside of the forest service were very unhelpful and often were very rude to me. A more hands on internship would probably be more productive, fun, and far less frustrating.
I feel as though the internship went pretty well in general and I enjoyed the
time I spent there. I really would have liked to have been able to help them
out more than I was able, but hopefully the lack of existing historical records
will not effect future restoration projects within the meadows.