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Our work on the ground

Volunteers for the Oregon Natural Desert Association, or ONDA, perform vast amounts of work in Oregon's high desert.

Restoration in Oregon's High Desert

Despite years of dedicated efforts by ONDA volunteers and staff, the need for restoration in Oregon’s high deserts is vast. ONDA carefully selects restoration projects to ensure projects provide significant, long-lasting benefit to public natural resources while providing an inspirational and educational experience to participants. Projects consist of four main types of work: riparian restoration, fence removal, wilderness inventory and wildlife monitoring.

Cherry Creek Planting
Volunteers plant trees at Cherry Creek.
Photo: Alexa Bontraga

Riparian restoration

ONDA’s riparian restoration efforts improve fish and wildlife habitat and are focused on tree planting and cooperative projects that encourage the return of beaver. The presence of protected fish species such as redband trout and steelhead is a determining factor when selecting project work areas. In these restoration projects, stream banks that have been denuded of vegetation are protected from destructive grazing and planted with thousands of native trees. These trees help to reduce erosion of the fragile volcanic soils. Unchecked erosion lowers the surrounding water table, dries out critical floodplain habitat and results in lower populations of native fish. Additionally, the trees planted in restoration projects provide shade that lower water temperatures and provide the food and building materials that allow beaver to move back into the restored area. Beaver, and the dams they construct, are critical to the long-term restoration process and are essential to achieving a healthy watershed and ecosystem.

Greater Sage-Grouse  By Kevin Smith
Greater Sage-Grouse.
Photo: Kevin Smith

Fence removal

In remote corners of Oregon’s desert lands, barbed wire fences divide the landscape. Many of these fences no longer serve a purpose and interfere with movement of native wildlife, excluding them from important habitat. High desert species such as Greater sage-grouse did not evolve with barbed wire fence, and fatal collisions with fences are an all too frequent occurrence. Already struggling due to diminished habitat, climate change and other pressures, at least removing these fences is an immediate improvement we can provide.

The iconic pronghorn antelope cross barbed wire fence by crawling beneath it. In the process they often become entangled and at times are fatally wounded. Elk and deer face the same fate as they try to jump over the fences to reach water sources or migrate seasonally. By removing hundreds of miles of barbed wire fences, this danger is reduced, wildlife habitat is improved and the wilderness scenery is restored, providing vistas unmarred by human impacts.

Wilderness inventory

Wilderness inventory trips provide critical information to determine boundaries and document the conditions found in proposed wilderness areas. Participants collect GPS referenced photos to demonstrate that the area meets the requirements ofwWilderness, such as a lack of maintained roads, possessing opportunities for solitude, and scenic and wildlife value. Through these inventories our enthusiastic volunteers have added millions of acres to the list of areas suitable for wilderness designation. This data supports our wilderness campaigns and our overarching goal of protecting 8 million acres of desert wild lands in Oregon.

Wildlife Monitoring

Wildlife survey projects are focused on monitoring Greater sage-grouse leks or other sensitive species such as raptors. Trips are conducted in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Oregon Department of Fish and Game and provide high-quality data that is used by these agencies in the management of candidate species for federal protection and other wildlife present in these areas.

Join ONDA on a meaningful and educational volunteer work trip. Current field trips are listed HERE.

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