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Steens Mountain

Steens Mountain Wilderness in southeastern Oregon is a spectacular gem in the high desert. ONDA has worked for decades to protect, defend, and restore the natural character of the Mountain.

A Desert Jewel

Steens Mountain lies along the horizon of southeastern Oregon like a sleeping giant among a bed of sagebrush, perennial grasses and wildflowers. Although often mistaken for a chain of mountains, Steens is actually one contiguous monolith—the largest fault block mountain in North America, stretching some 50 miles and reaching a mile vertically, with summits that overlook the Alvord Desert, wide canyons, and the Donner und Blitzen River.

Steens Mountain
Steens Mountain.
Photo: Jim Davis

The mountain’s dark undulating slopes and stern ridgelines can be seen for miles, making Steens Mountain the high desert’s “crown jewel.” Unlike the glittering Cascades, it is a gem noted for its unrefined stark beauty—something wholly original in a seemingly uniform shrub sea home to sage-grouse, golden eagles, falcons, pronghorn, and other wild residents.

Beauty that captivates! The natural beauty of the area, and the four immense U-shaped gorges--Kiger, Little Blitzen, Big Indian, and Wildhorse-- cut by prehistoric glaciers enchant visitors and residents every year. In fact, The Steens Mountain Cooperative Management and Protection Area (CMPA) hosts over 100,000 visitors a year to hunt, fish, camp, bird watch, and so much more.
We are dedicated to Steens! ONDA has worked for decades to protect, defend, and restore the natural character of the Mountain. ONDA was instrumental in the passage of the Steens Mountain Cooperative Management and Protection Act of 2000 which designated the first "livestock-free" Wilderness Area in the country.

Kiger Gorge
Kiger Gorge.
Photo: Bob Petit

As described in the Steens Act, the current character and use of the lands on Steens Mountain include “grazing, recreation, historic, and other uses that are sustainable,” “traditional access to cultural, gathering, religious, and archaeological sites,” and the conservation and protection of “geological, biological, wildlife, riparian, and scenic resources.”

No industrial development exists on the mountain or within the Cooperative Management and Protection Area (CMPA). Development is limited to private ranches and primitive campgrounds and recreation facilities. However, this natural character is threatened by proposed industrial-scale energy development on the northern flank of the Mountain.

Energy development would impair this fragile place. Plans by Columbia Energy Developers (a Washington-based company) to build a large wind energy complex would not only ruin the character of the mountain, but could seriously harm sensitive wildlife habitat. More information is available on our Energy page.

Let your voice be heard! Take Action today to protect Steens Mountain.

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