Resources and Recreation in the Mojave Desert
Written by: Isabeau Cordes
After a few terms of seasonal work I feel incredibly lucky to have landed in the Mojave, and the Bureau of Land Management, with ACE. Indecision has always been a near crippling force in my career journey. Working outside is great, but picking a specific path has felt impossible. How am I supposed to know which job I want if I haven’t tried out all my options yet? When I came across a position titled Resources and Recreation I thought, well that’s not very specific, what does a BLM office do that doesn’t fall under managing resources or facilitating recreation? As it turns out, that was exactly the point.
Since the start of my time with the Barstow BLM office, I have had to remind myself to expect the unexpected. From unprecedented flooding and San Bernardino County’s first every blizzard warning to high speed desert racing and super blooms, I quite literally never know what is about to happen in Barstow. I have been presented with a very unique opportunity, where I am not assigned to any specific project or working underneath any one supervisor. Instead I am given the freedom to explore anything and everything that happens within the field office. On the resources side of the office I have been able to participate in a wide range of surveys, including range and grazing, wildlife, and archaeological. Recreation has given me the chance to work on opening up recreation areas to the public, and monitoring one of the largest off road race events in the country. This has allowed me to understand the daily operations of many positions more thoroughly than I ever could from just a job description. This is the first time I’ve had any exposure to open OHV (off highway vehicle) recreation, and it has introduced me to the balance and compromises that exist between conservation and recreation. The Mojave is a beautiful, unique, and delicate ecosystem. There are times where amongst the Joshua trees and desert tortoises it feels as if I get to work on another planet. I love the flora and fauna of this desert, so it can be difficult to see open use areas with dirt bike and UTV trails ripped into every mountain and valley. But without the recreation areas, without the visitors paying to ride, there wouldn’t be nearly as much funding for the upkeep of areas of critical environmental concern. Being able to work on both sides has helped me to understand the bigger picture of why we have public lands and how they should be managed.
I can’t say for sure what my next step will be after my time with ACE. The endless options for a future is still a daunting thing to face, but I have a much clearer idea of where certain paths may take me. I’m beyond grateful for the guidance that I’ve received here, but also for the freedom. I’ve been given the freedom to problem solve and work independently, and to express what I’d like to learn and figure out who can make that happen. There will always be opportunities as long as I’m willing to put myself out there, and I’m very lucky that opportunity led me here.