Employee Stories

What’s it really like to work for the largest federal land management agency in the country?  In the following stories, BLM employees share their rewarding career experiences with the agency, in their own words.  Meet a few of our dedicated employees now, and then visit USAJOBS to find your own place with the BLM.

Brian Bourdon, Realty Specialist

Brian standing in front of a display featuring information about BLM Alaska.
Brian Bourdon is a realty specialist for the BLM Anchorage Field Office. BLM photo.

Brian Bourdon, Realty Specialist for the BLM Anchorage Field Office

Where do you work and how does your job help fulfill the BLM mission? 

I work in the Division of Lands at the Anchorage Field Office. We respond to public demand for the use of BLM lands while ensuring the protection of the lands to the greatest extent possible. As a realty specialist, I process land use applications for rights-of-way actions and permits. I conduct rights-of-way compliance inspections, document and help resolve trespass cases, and work with Alaska Native allotment applicants to help them acquire title to lands under the Native Allotment Act. 

What previous experience/education prepared you for the job? 

I came to the BLM in 2009. Previously, I was a resource conservation and development coordinator at the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service in Nome, a coastal community in western Alaska. I worked on economic development projects with villages in the region. I have a bachelor's degree in rural development from the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF). I'm also a Veteran of the U.S. Navy. 

What is the best thing about your job? 

I enjoy helping applicants with land use authorizations. It's very rewarding to help them get the permits they need while ensuring that proposed actions do not cause harm to the public lands. Many projects provide good public benefits that demonstrate the value of BLM lands to local economies. Being able to help applicants secure authorizations for their projects makes a good day for all of us. 

Two men in a grassy field that is bordering a body of water and a hill.
Brian (right) with a Native allotment applicant during a site visit near King Salmon, Alaska. BLM photo.

What is the most challenging part of your job? 

The logistics of getting out to the field in Alaska are complex. It's not like the Lower 48 where you can drive to the site. Here most BLM lands are off the road system so you get in a helicopter or fixed-wing aircraft to get there. It's costly and requires a lot of planning. Another challenge is helping applicants understand why it takes longer than they think to receive their authorizations. They don't understand the NEPA process and why we can't respond to their requests overnight. Budget constraints and vacant positions also make the process take longer, and sometimes that's difficult for applicants to understand. 

What brought you to the BLM? 

I was born and raised in Nome and worked in that region for many years after completing my degree at UAF. So when BLM needed additional help in Nome, I decided to apply. I had local knowledge of the area and the field skills to get out to villages and work with local residents. The BLM is a great place to put my skills and degree to work, helping rural economies work toward sustainability. 

What is an interesting or fun fact about yourself? 

I am three-quarters Inupiaq and a quarter French. My father was half Inupiaq and half French. He spoke Inupiaq, Alutiiq and English. My mother is full Inupiaq. When I was in college, a fellow student told me she was impressed that most Native people know who they are and where they're from. She said she knew nothing about her ancestors or the origin of her family name. As an Inupiaq, I know my heritage and where my family is from. That's an important part of Alaska Native culture and an important thing to know in working with and understanding Native peoples.

J. Sharrise Barnes, Support Services

Two women at a table that features information about the BLM.
J. Sharrise Barnes, Milwaukee District Office Support Services. and Natural Resource Specialist Katie Kassander staff the BLM table at the 2016 Diversity Career Fair held at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. BLM photo.

J. Sharrise Barnes, Milwaukee District Office Support Services 

Where do you work and how does your job help fulfill the BLM's mission? 

Right now I'm on a detail at the Eastern States Office in Washington, D.C. completing the annual inventory, but I work at the Milwaukee District Office. I'm under the Support Services umbrella, so any administrative functions from correspondence to organizing programs to making sure people are getting paid as well as logistics management are what I do. In other words, I help to keep the ball rolling in the different areas where support services are concerned. 

How did your previous education and experience prepare you for this job? 

My experience in the Army has definitely been helpful with successfully doing this job. I'm able to manage my duties more effectively and do multiple things on any given day without much guidance or assistance. There have been multiple times that I've had to figure things out on my own, and even though it was a little frustrating, traits such as adaptability, flexibility, willingness to learn, and networking ability are all assets that I "carry with me in my toolbox" from being in the Army. 

I also have a bachelor's degree in Sociology and I believe that having genuine respect for and interest in people from different backgrounds and cultures helps me find ways to relate and hopefully make them feel appreciated. It's really important to be a "people person" when you're an administrative assistant because you provide a lot of customer services. 

What is the best thing about your job? 

It's a cakewalk in comparison to being in the Army, where everything was set to really strict standards! I enjoy the balanced lifestyle this job gives me; it's a lot less demanding and I feel like I can live authentically a whole lot more. It's my dream to have a family of my own in the future, and so a job where I am not worked beyond my limits and not feeling overwhelmed by the end of the day is one of the many things I appreciate about it. 

What is the most challenging part of your job? 

Not just with this job, but with any job, sometimes you have to deal with people that are just difficult. I'm always striving to be a professional first and foremost, but also I try to be a good person to all people. That reciprocity doesn't always happen though, so, even when it's hard to NOT be bothered, I'm mature enough to where I don't focus on the negative and that mindset usually gets me through those rough days. 

What do you want the public to know about the BLM? 

I want them to know that public lands are accessible to all of us and they should be explored more. I personally believe that there is a lot of "free medicine" that you receive from being out in nature! You can spend time with your family and do recreational activities, or just enjoy the beautiful scenery. America is such a beautiful country, and we have everything you want to see: mountain ranges, vast waterfronts, history. We do have different initiatives to entice participation in the public lands, for example the "Every Kid in a Park" passes that are available for free for 4th graders nationwide. Also the Wild Horse and Burro Program is excellent and not a lot of people know about it. There is a great need for the wild horses out West, particularly in Nevada, to be cared for, and as stewards of the land it's our responsibility to help them. A lot of people don't know that horses can be very therapeutic, not only for riding purposes, but there are programs that incorporate them in assisting with overcoming trauma and helping you to think outside of yourself. If the public would get more involved with the adoptions, they would have an opportunity to give back for a great cause. 

A man and a woman standing in front of a large display about the BLM.
Sharisse joins Steve Meyer, Supervisory Wild Horse and Burro Specialist, at the 15th annual Milwaukee County Veterans Job Fair representing the Northeastern States District. BLM photo.


Tracy Perfors, Natural Resource Specialist

Tracy wearing a hard hat and safety glasses while standing near machinery.
Tracy Perfors is a Natural Resource Specialist for the Tres Rios Field Office and Canyons of the Ancients National Monument in Dolores, Colorado.  BLM photo.

Tracy Perfors, Natural Resource Specialist for the Tres Rios Field Office and Canyons of the Ancients National Monument in Dolores, Colorado

Where do you work and how does your job help fulfill the BLM mission? 

I am a Natural Resource Specialist for the oil and gas program at the Tres Rios Field Office and Canyons of the Ancients National Monument in Dolores, Colorado. My job is to walk oil and gas projects through their entire life cycle. I help operators plan projects to proactively avoid resource conflicts, work with the BLM Interdisciplinary Team to analyze the project through NEPA during permitting, and inspect for environmental compliance during project construction, drilling, production and reclamation. 

What previous experience/education prepared you for the job? 

I've held this job for about 3.5 years. Previously, I worked a number of seasonal wildlife and recreation jobs with a variety of federal agencies. I also earned a Master's degree in Rangeland Ecosystem Science. These experiences helped me work with the BLM Interdisciplinary Team to understand and mitigate resource conflicts and promote good reclamation practices. 

I am a veteran, which helped familiarize me with large-scale industrial projects. In addition, many oil and gas employees are veterans, which is nice because having a shared background helps to build working relationships before tackling a difficult, contentious project. 

What is the best thing about your job? 

I enjoy reclaiming a site after an oil and gas well has completed its productive life. Even though oil and gas wells may be out there for decades, they are temporary uses of our public land, and will ultimately be cleaned up and removed. It's fulfilling to show someone a site that has been reclaimed so beautifully that the person never guesses it was once an industrial area. 

What is the most challenging part of your job? 

On oil and gas projects, my job acts as a go-between for oil and gas companies, BLM resource specialists, and the American public. Sometimes these groups have competing goals which must somehow be resolved into a workable project. 

What brought you to the BLM? 

The BLM allows me to work on important issues in a beautiful area with other dynamic, motivated coworkers. It's a win-win-win. 

What is an interesting or fun fact about yourself? 

I have a PTSD service dog named Fica. She's completed high-level good-behavior training and training in PTSD-specific tasks like reducing my anxiety from nightmares and reducing hypervigilance in crowds. I don't usually take her to work, but she's joined me on overnight trips and some meetings. She's a ham for attention, and she loves playing tug-of-war and destroying basketballs when she's off duty. 

Tracy kneeling with her dog in a parking lot.
Tracy with her dog, Fica. BLM photo.


Steven Wright, Archaeologist and Environmental Educator

Wright holding a staff as part of his outdoor demonstration.
Demonstration of replicas of ancient Native American hunting implements at the Land of the Yankee Fork Interpretive Center in Challis, Idaho.  BLM photo.

Steven Wright, Archaeologist and Environmental Educator, at BLM's Birch Creek Campground

Where do you work and how does your job help fulfill BLM's mission? 

I work as an Archaeologist in the Salmon Field Office, Idaho. I am very passionate about archeology and youth. Although there are many reasons why I love my job, it is my belief that this job gives me the opportunity to interact with the public on archeological matters to further their knowledge of the importance of these historical resources. By increasing understanding, I hope to provide another layer of protection so people understand the why behind good cultural stewardship. 

I have the ability to do several school programs throughout the year and, in doing those programs, I can reach out and let youth know how important college and an education is. I am living proof – I am where I am now because I went to college and they can do the same. I sometimes get the impression from rural kids in this region that they believe college is just too hard, that they just aren't smart enough, or that going is impossibly expensive. While the latter may almost be true in this day and age, none are really valid if you really want to get there. If I could do it, they sure can! It may not have much to do with archaeology, but I think planting these seeds in young ears is very, very important. Also, outreach and sharing what I learn is not only an obligation of my position as a BLM cultural resource employee, but also ranks high by virtue of the ethical code of the discipline of archaeology. Archaeology has something profound to teach us. 

What previous experience/education prepared you for this job? 

I have a BA in Anthropology from Idaho State University (ISU), and did about a year of graduate work there; and went to the University of Washington to finish my MA . My academic career is nothing if not interesting. I have worked various positions both in the Idaho Museum of Natural History and the Burke Memorial Museum at UW. I was a seasonal employee both for the U.S. Forest Service and the BLM off and on from 1978 through 1987, with stints working for the above mentioned museums, for ISU as a "Research Assistant" and "Crew Chief," and for private consulting firms in various capacities in between. In 1991, I got my first full time/permanent position with the government (BLM) – largely based on my previous on-the-ground experience rather than academic history . . . at least, that's what they told me. It's what you can do when you walk out the door loaded with that backpack and field notebook that counts. 

What is the best thing about your job? 

By far one of my favorite things is the time I spend outreaching with area schools and archeological organizations. I learned flint knapping at a young age and derive a special enjoyment in teaching it to kids and adults, not so much because it makes a "product" but because it affords me an "in" for talking to kids and adults (but especially kids) about the broader archaeological and historical panorama. Flint knapping grabs kids –they especially love to see those flakes fly (and every once in a while, a little blood!). But while I'm at it, I'm answering any and all questions they might have (often very good ones), and talking about the way people in the past lived and how archaeologists learn these things, and about cultural-resource-specific issues like: "Why do you think you shouldn't pick artifacts up and put them in your pocket?", "What should you do if you find lots of flakes and broken artifacts while out hunting or hiking with your parents?", etc. 

At one point, I thought seriously about double-majoring in both anthropology (archaeology) and geology, because I have a very strong interest in the whole geosciences arena, especially in the interdisciplinary connect with archaeology per se. Also, I love paleontology (particularly paleofloral studies) and historical geology. If it's old, I like it! Working with the BLM here in the Salmon Field Office gives me the chance to experience and learn all of these facets. If the archaeology's boring on a particularly day, I just "switch gears" to geology, paleo, soils, etc. –There's always something out there to fascinate me. 

A handful of people listening to Mr. Wright give an outdoor talk.
Providing a tour of the Coal Kilns archaeological site in Upper Birch Creek Valley, Idaho. BLM photo.

What is the most challenging part of your job? 

While I love working with youth and sharing history with those around me, I am quite introverted and battle shyness. Overcoming this challenge is a continual process but I work on it daily and this job gives me ample opportunities to face partners and groups to overcome this obstacle. Ironically, in more formal settings where archaeology is the central theme, it's a different story – as for instance, giving presentations, or overseeing contract work. 

What brought you to the BLM? 

I was impressed with the BLM when I worked for them as a seasonal and it's the amazing people that keep me here. I have consistently found myself working with top-notch specialists while with the BLM, and here in the Salmon office the emphasis has been "getting it done" out on the land. Process and paperwork has its place, but you've got to get out there and get your boots dirty to really do this job right. There is a close-knit team spirit, with a surprising amount of cross-sharing of experiences and skills, and most important of all – there are no closed office doors here. 

Denisse Escobar, Environment for the Americas Intern

Denisse Escobar with a tri-fold display offering information about birds.
Denisse Escobar, Environment for the Americas Intern, coordinated this year's International Migratory Bird Day event at Yaquina Head. BLM photo.

Denisse Escobar, Environment for the Americas Intern, Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area 

Where do you work and how does your job help fulfill the BLM mission? 

I am currently interning for the BLM through a partnership with Environment for the Americas at Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area located in Newport, Oregon. This site offers visitors an incredible opportunity to learn more about the surrounding wildlife and the rich history of the Oregon coast. Through this internship, I am able to inform visitors about the amazing animals we have here ranging from Harbor Seals, Ochre Sea Stars, and Peregrine Falcons, to the breathtaking Gray Whales. Furthermore, sharing my love for the outdoors, the ocean, and sea life provides me with an opportunity to plant a seed in others, so they can learn to take better care of or simply appreciate our amazing planet. Aside from my park ranger duties, I conducted shorebird surveys off Yaquina Bay during their migration season and I am currently working with OSU's Seabird Oceanography Lab in the ongoing research of the common murre at Yaquina Head. 

What previous experience/education prepared you for the job? 

Before beginning this internship, I was studying abroad in Central Mexico. I received the internship offer at the end of my semester and returned home for a few days before departing to Oregon. Home is in Bakersfield, California and this month I am graduating from the California State University of Bakersfield with a BA in Political Science, an international relations concentration, and two minors (Sociology & Spanish). Although my academic background is somewhat non-traditional for individuals working in the land management field, I think the humanistic focus of the social sciences has given me the ability to connect and communicate effectively with the public. This internship has had a huge impact on my career outlook and it has motivated me to pursue a degree in the natural sciences, specifically in Marine Resource Management. 

What is the best thing about your job? 

The best thing about my job is the pristine beauty of my surroundings. When I drive to work, I am still stunned by the beautiful Oregon coast. For those not familiar with the area, Yaquina Head is a headland extending one mile into the Pacific Ocean, so the drive never gets boring. Additionally, I am able to work in the ocean, literally, by walking along the tide-pools, pinpointing the array of species, and educating visitors on what they see. I can't complain; this job is paradise for someone who did not grow up around the ocean or in the outdoors. 

Samples of sea life arranged for viewing on a display.
During low tide, Denisse informs visitors about the tide pools, for their safety and for area wildlife.  BLM photo.

What is the most challenging part of your job? 

The most challenging part of this job is holidays. Hundreds of visitors visit Yaquina Head year-round, but on special occasions the rush can be a bit overwhelming when enforcing safety regulations. It can sometimes feel like you are one person for every 200 visitors. Needless to say it is such a rewarding job and people are mindful about our concerns. Plus, there is an amazing staff and set of volunteers at my reach that offer a helping hand when things seem chaotic. Shout out to them! 

What brought you to the BLM? 

Before my senior year in college, I volunteered for a turtle conservation program and my world changed thereafter. I began to fathom a career in conservation, but I knew I lacked the academic background to pursue such a profession. This internship was my first opportunity to direct my career in the environmental field. This position has confirmed my doubts on pursuing policy. My interest to pursue a degree in the natural sciences led me to BLM, and I am so happy to be here. 

What is an interesting or fun fact about yourself? 

I am an avid surfer, paddle-boarder, and snorkeler, although I haven't swum in the Oregon coast. My love for the ocean emerged during my first trip in Mexico to see my father. He lives in a remote pueblo off the Pacific Coast. It is here that I saw my first whale, engaged in turtle conservation, and learned how to surf. The water is a bit cold for me here in Oregon, but I fully appreciate its beauty nevertheless. I plan on purchasing a surf board before leaving, as a reminder of the Pacific Northwest.

Denisse Escobar in front of an expanse of water.
Denisse Escobar, Environment for the Americas Intern, Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area. BLM photo. 


Featured Video

In Spring 2016, 35 new BLM Colorado employees met in Alamosa to develop an overall understanding of our structure and mission to better serve the American public. Check out this video, which highlights the excitement and passion the BLM family has for public service!