Internship with Some Fire

Selby Boerman

4th year Animal Science major with a Rangeland Resources minor

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As an ignorant Californian, when I thought of Washington, I imagined a grey sky constantly drizzling over a population of hippies, flat open wheat fields, and America’s source of apples and pears. Then I spent my summer serving as the northeast region State Lands Ag intern for the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR), covering ground ranging from crop land in the central part of the state up to mountainous forests on the Canadian border, and discovered so much more.

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The DNR trust land acts as a revenue source for schools. These land allotments generate funds through leases including cash and crop shares on dryland and irrigated crops, grazing, and orchard land. I performed the crop inspections on the dryland leases to ensure the lessee’s end-of-the-year report matches up with what crops we document. Building relationships with farmers and ranchers by talking and listening to their concerns was my favorite part of being a land manager, and it was great getting to know the local cattlemen.

During a couple of overnight trips to the Okanogan I applied photo monitoring and utilization techniques to analyze the impact of grazing use on riparian areas and permit ranges. The photo monitoring was really fascinating to see in areas that had been affected by fires or flooding, and it was really cool to take methods learned in class into real world practice.

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DNR is the state wildland firefighting force, something I didn’t know prior to accepting the internship. Once fire season took off in the middle of July, my boss’s team took me on and I spent several weeks living in fire camps. I entered a whole new realm, communicating with dispatch to order and track resources for the fires, demobing, and helping put together the daily IAPs (incident action plans). On a single fire up on the Canadian border I connected with an Albuquerque team, the Forest Service, the BLM, and the National Guard. If I alter my career goals toward the fire industry, it’s safe to say I’ll have a job waiting after graduation as all these people kept trying to recruit me and left their contact info for when I’m convinced!

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It was challenging living in a different state, working in an environment dominated by middle-aged men, and being away from the cattle ranching life I love. But it affirmed my goal of improving rangeland resource management and working between ranchers and the government to give producers a better voice in policy decisions. The DNR was unique in helping me get a foot in the door of the firefighting aspect of land management, providing me with a huge network of contacts, and has me brainstorming ways to get cattle more widely accepted as fire preventers to graze and control fire fuels!

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