Maximizing Opportunities Leads to New Career

A Reflection Piece by Isa Cordes, ACE EPIC Alumni

I’ve spent several years moving around for seasonal conservation work, and have done habitat restoration, trail work, and a variety of surveying and monitoring jobs. When I came to the Mojave Desert to work with the BLM as an ACE member, I was happy to take on a new opportunity, but had no idea I’d be joining the BLM office permanently after a year and a half. In the last month I have accepted a permanent appointment as the office’s Realty Specialist. A year ago, I thought the “Realty Specialist” position was some kind of real estate gig, but have since learned all about the land authorizations the public land agencies manage.

Within my “Resources and Recreation” position with ACE, I was able to move around the BLM departments and experience all aspects of the work we do. My goal with ACE was always to gain a better understanding of what type of career with public lands I could fit into. When the lands and realty position became vacant there was opportunity for me to step in and get a real crash course introduction of what land use authorizations are all about. From learning about the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process, to inspecting the operations of major utility corridors, I got to do it all. It was also the perfect role to apply all the things I had learned from working with the rest of our resources team and surveying all parts of the field office.

Isa Cordes Clean Up Date Image

Community graffiti cleanup day at Giant Rock

The most valuable thing I gained from my time as an ACE member was the ability to explore and ask questions. I’m confident that a large amount of the opportunities I was given came as a result of me being interested in everything my office had to offer, and not being shy about asking for the chance to try new things with anyone who was willing to have me around for a few days. Especially as an ACE member, there are so many opportunities out there if you advocate for yourself, and also bug the right people. My transition into a permanent role with the BLM has been pretty smooth, but also very busy. I’ve been able to do some official travel already, to take some much-needed training courses, and am planning on doing even more soon. My member terms prepared me well, and my field office is excited for future ACE members to come join the team.

Isa Cordes exploring rocks

Exploring the rocks near Joshua Tree

It has been a little sad to trade in my days of consistent field work for more time at a desk, but I’m looking forward to seeing where this career takes me. When I’m able to keep my calendar free of meetings and calls, I still get to get out into the desert for all sorts of inspections. I’ve had to quickly get an idea of how different facilities are built and operate, like solar projects, communication towers, power distribution lines, and more.

Tortoise and Lizard

Discovering local desert tortoises and lizards



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