26 August 2021

End of Summer wrap-up

Written by: Cole Bleke

My internship with the Directorate Fellows Program for the USFWS is coming to a close. Since this was my first experience working for the federal government the sky was the limit for learning the system. I was exposed to many processes and projects that take place on wildlife refuges and the collaboration that takes place across programs. This summer gave me the chance to build an assessment of the refuge grasslands from the ground up and assist with developing some vegetation protocols. In addition, I was granted with many networking opportunities with people working in various programs and various parts of the country. Everyone responded in a similar way questions regarding working for the FWS and why. Those responses largely dealt with the community aspect, collaboration, and the mission of the service. It was heartwarming to hear that and solidified my desire to begin my career with the Fish and Wildlife Service upon graduation next spring.

Last week I got the opportunity to work through and receive my heavy equipment and off-road vehicle (OHV) trainings at Las Vegas NWR. As a result of the heavy equipment training, I was able to spend some time behind the wheel of the tractor and backhoe. Plowing up pivots at the refuge took me back to the cornbelt of Indiana, with a major difference being the purpose behind working these fields. On the refuge, agricultural crops are planted to benefit migratory birds, but the resident elk make sure to take advantage of the buffet as well. This planting crops for wildlife mentality is not a popular one back home. This refuge, largely grasslands and wetlands, and many others have been purchased with federal duck stamp monies. That’s something I try to preach to everyone. The federal duck stamp is the perfect way to give back to the land and wildlife without buying a hunting or fishing license. Anyone and everyone can and should purchase a duck stamp from their local post office and know they are supporting wetland habitat acquisition and restoration managed by the USFWS national wildlife refuge system. This is not your typical mailing stamp, but $25 a year can make a difference.

Agency: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Program: US Fish & Wildlife Service - DFP

Location: Rio Mora National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area

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