Hart Mountain Revealed Recap

Sean Bagshaw   Website

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.

 

watch

Helen Harbin on Wildlife

Helen Harbin on Wildlife

watch

Sage-grouse Mating Dance

Sage-grouse Mating Dance

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Wildflower Poetry Reading

Wildflower Poetry Reading

Beatys Butte

Jim Davis

Hiking and Exploration

Backcountry camping is allowed throughout the region with a free permit. There are several primitive car-camping campgrounds as well.  Check in at the Hart National Antelope Refuge’s visitor center for more information.

Hiking opportunities abound from hidden box-canyons on the east side, to waterfalls in De Garmo Canyon. Find petroglyphs on the rimrock outcropping of Petroglyph Lake and climb Poker Jim Ridge for steep views into the Warner Valley several thousand feet below.

In springtime, pronghorn are having their young, birders can find Yellow Warblers and Sandhill Cranes on their migratory path, and, in the first few weeks of June, you may be lucky enough to find primrose-filled playas.

Come fall watch for color changing snow-pocket aspen groves, active mule deer, and the chance to see it all under a blanket of snow.

And all year long enjoy sunsets over Beatys Butte and the best starry night skies you’ve ever seen!

The vast majority of the hiking in the Greater Hart-Sheldon Region involves cross-country travel through open sagebrush steppe. As always, carry a detailed topographic map and navigation tools and practice Leave No Trace.

Conservation Actions

BLM Resource Management Plans develop a framework for how public lands will be managed over the next 10-15 years. The BLM is currently working on an update to two Resource Management Plans in southeast Oregon, covering over seven million acres of public lands in both the Lakeview (Hart-Sheldon) and Vale (Owyhee) BLM districts. Sign up now to engage in these important planning processes and help determine how these public lands are managed for decades to come.

For more information about the public comment period and ways to get engaged, visit our desert planning page.