My experience working with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Eastern States Office in Washington D.C. has challenged me in many ways. I am interning for the Division of Natural Resources where I am working on a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) reference guide. This requires me to thoroughly review and extract regulations that are relevant to the NEPA process from laws relevant to the work of the BLM. Some examples of laws that I have since familiarized myself with are: Minerals Leasing Act (MLA), Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA), and the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Reviewing laws is a skill that even those at the top of their game can always improve. This involves interpreting the law and comparing my interpretation, in instances where the language may be unclear, to court cases. The objective of this work is to lay a strong foundation to be able to work as a NEPA planner in the future. It is absolutely advantageous to have a strong understanding of the laws relevant to the actions of the BLM when developing the NEPA.
In addition, I have developed a story map for Pelican Island--the nation’s first wildlife refuge. This fun side project has allowed me to not only learn about the rich history of our nation’s first wildlife refuge, but has also allowed me to learn ArcGIS. ArcGIS is a useful skill to learn, and in fact, will help me when I take my required Environmental Applications of GIS course at Hopkins next spring. In order to complete this project, I had to organize a meeting with several different people here in the Eastern States office. This project requires collaboration with both the GIS and External Affairs team. I had the chance to lead this coordination meeting, and my boss, Rachelle, taught me how to get what I needed from the attendees. I learned that meetings, if not structured probably may not be an effective use of time. In order to ensure that the meeting was effective, I developed an agenda of the questions that I needed to get answered, and from there, I assigned tasks to the group. This mini project has not only been useful in developing my project coordination skills, but has also been quite fun!
In my experience, I do not get as much hands on experience working with my boss. She had ACL surgery right before the start of my internship and has been working from home since. Her first day back in the office was this past Wednesday, and she will be in the office once a week from here on out. If I could change anything about this experience, I would like to be able to work side by side with a NEPA planner that is more available—though, this was not an expected barrier that anyone saw coming! I am making the most of this experience and am excited to see where things lead from here. HAF is such a great organization and my program manager, Marlene, has been incredibly helpful throughout this entire process. It is great knowing that I have someone who will hear me out and be there for me as a resource.