During our 2019 High Desert Speaker Series, ONDA’s Hart-Sheldon Coordinator Jeremy Austin presented in both Bend and Portland. Here’s the “CliffsNotes” version of his for Hart Mountain Revealed talk.
Where is Hart Mountain?
Roughly 230 miles southeast of Bend, Oregon, Hart Mountain sits at the northern extent of the largest desert in the United States, the Great Basin. The region’s undulating topography of dropped valleys and fault block mountains has been shaped by dynamic processes for millennia, including Pleistocene era lakes that once filled the vast valley floors.
Greater Hart-Sheldon Region Values
The Greater Hart-Sheldon Region includes Hart Mountain and several million acres of the surrounding public lands. The region boasts huge blocks of public lands that possess wilderness values, creating extensive connected wilderness-quality lands that support the region’s rich wildlife populations.
Some of the oldest archaeological evidence of human habitation in North America has been discovered here, findings that are supported by the traditional knowledge of indigenous groups such as the Northern Paiute who have been on these lands from time immemorial.
These lands are home to wildlife species that truly embody the American West, from pronghorn to Greater Sage-Grouse to bighorn sheep. The Greater Hart-Sheldon Region has some of the largest stretches of intact sagebrush steppe landscapes left in North America, an ecosystem that has seen over half of its historic range converted or degraded over time. Since the establishment of the Sheldon and Hart refuges in the 1930s, pronghorn populations across North America have seen a steady increase, bouncing back from the brink of extinction in the 1920s to roughly a million today. The region is also a stronghold for Greater Sage-Grouse, recognized by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as one of the most important areas for the long term survival of the bird. Translocation efforts in the 1950s at Hart Mountain helped re-establish bighorn sheep in Oregon after they were extirpated from the state in the early 1900s. These lands are also home to pygmy rabbits, badger, hundreds of bird species, ninety species of mammals, and dozens of species of reptiles and amphibians.