Leadership in Natural Resources

I probably seem like a busy person to most people, but really I’m not.  I’ve been struggling lately with finding motivation for myself.  Some would probably wonder why.  I live in a great area, have a great job with a great purpose.  I have journaled about it many times recently trying to figure out what’s going on.

Pine Ridge November Sunset-1

Sunset on Nebraska’s Pine Ridge (Canon 7D MkII, Sigma 17-50, 20mm, f/14, 1/80, ISO 100)

I have tried to change systems, get myself into better habits, making lists, avoiding email and social media, but it’s hard.  There are so many things out there to pull me away and let me avoid my responsibilities.  Yesterday, I got to thinking as I was scrolling through Twitter…if I’m going to be successful, I need to get back to the basics.  I need to give myself purpose, direction, and motivation.  Those three things are the definition of leadership that have been instilled in me asince I was a 23 year old sergeant in the Army.

If I’m not getting that or seeing it from all of the videos and messages from my agency’s leadership, I need to find it myself.  It’s not that I think my leaders aren’t providing it, I’m just not processing it in a way that it resonates with me, motivates me.

Whitetail Buck-1

White-tail Deer near Crawford, NE (Canon 7D MkII, Sigma 150-200 C, 600mm, f/6.3, 1/250, ISO 800)

So, yesterday, I went out on the District.  It’s firearm deer season here in Nebraska, one of our busiest times of year.  I saw quite a few people out enjoying their public lands.  I ran into a group of hunters from Michigan who had stopped in Nebraska on their way home from Montana.  Great group of guys.  They’d had success in Montana, taking several trophy deer.  They had only been here for about a day and a half and had already taken two mature mule deer.  I talked with them about maps and access and where the big deer hide.

The thing I took away from this contact is that there are people who appreciate what we have in this country.  Those four guys were having a great time and a successful hunt, doing it on their own.  They weren’t paying thousands of dollars to a landowner. They were using their land, public land, and having just as much fun and success as the two guys i talked to who had flown in from California, paid a landowner $1000 a piece.

So, I found some motivation yesterday.  I talked to the real people I work for, the public land users.  I saw their enjoyment and appreciation for what we do as managers.  I needed some of that.  That’s our purpose.  Serving them. Our direction is set by our various plans and priorities, and the motivation comes from the users and producers.  Doing what’s right for them and future generations is our purpose.


A Morning on the Lek

I have worked in the Nebraska Sandhills and now in the Pine Ridge as a natural resources manager for six years now.  I’ve heard all about the experience of sitting in a blind and watching the spring displays of our native prairie grouse.  I’ve always come up with excuses not to experience it myself…too early in the morning, sunlight not good enough, too far to drive, something going on at work etc.  Yesterday, I finally did it.

A while back, I found a lek just a couple of miles from my house.

Sharptail Grouse-1

Canon T1i, Sigma 150-600 C, 600mm, f/7.1, 1/1250, ISO 800

I was a little concerned about disturbing the dance setting up my blind early in the morning, so the evening prior, i went out to the area and set up a pop-up hunting blind. That night, I set my alarm for 0500. I had all of my gear (tripod, camera, etc) packed up in the truck, so all I had to do was make some coffee and head out before first light.


I got to the blind around 0545 and got settled in.  It wasn’t 10 minutes later that I started hearing the guttural clucks and rapid foot stomping that I’d read about and only heard from a distance.

Sharptail Grouse-20

Canon T1i, Sigma 150-600 C, f/7.1, 600 mm, 1/1000, ISO 800

As the sun came up, i started taking photos.  I didn’t have great light throughout the morning, but I’m pretty happy with several of the photos.  It was hard to really capture the dance that the Sharptails do because of the poor light and the fact that my blind was actually a little bit lower than where they were dancing.

Sharptail Grouse-43

Canon T1i, Sigma 150-600 C, f/7.1, 600 mm, 1/1250, ISO 800

It was a great experience.  There was probably 15 or 20 birds in the group.  I’d say 3/4 of them were actively dancing. I noticed a few of the birds acted as “sentinels” for the larger group.  I also saw several of the female stopping by to watch and try to pick a mate.

Sharptail Grouse-31

Canon T1i, Sigma 150-600 C, f/7.1, 600 mm, 1/1000, ISO 800

I encourage all that work in tourism or natural resources to get out and see some of the wonders that go on in their area.  I know my experience will help me to tell the story of the plains and has given me a new respect for the things that you don’t always see from the highway.