2022 Conservationist of the Year

David Rein

Meet Mary McCord, ONDA’s 2022 Conservationist of the Year

If you attended an ONDA event this year, chances are that Mary McCord was working behind the scenes to make sure everything was running smoothly. Mary is a consistent and cheerful presence in the ONDA office, at events, and on stewardship trips in the high desert. Mary’s willingness to help out with whatever needs to be done to help Oregon’s high desert, from stamping letters to planting willows on desert streams, is what earned her the title of ONDA’s 2022 Conservationist of the Year.

The Conservationist of the Year award, formerly known as the volunteer of the year award, was started in 2013 to honor the person who made the most significant contribution to the conservation of Oregon’s high desert in the most recent year.

Mary and her husband Tom were inspired to become ONDA members when they attended a Wild & Scenic Film Festival event in Bend. Mary has always held a special connection with Oregon’s high desert, and since making the move many years ago to Central Oregon she has continued to explore and fall in love with new places across the desert. “Since I started at ONDA Mary has been a great support and I am always happy to hear about all the work she and Tom have done for the high desert,” said ONDA’s Development Coordinator, Karina Diaz. “Our work would not be possible without Mary’s weekly visits to help out.”

Her passion for conservation and inclusive community spirit is a legacy that is already being carried on by her children, Blake and Lindsay. Her son, Blake McCord, (link: https://www.instagram.com/blakemccordphoto/) is a climber, photographer and a filmmaker, whose work explores identity and highlights climbers who are building resilience in the face of adversity. His film They/Them follows  trans climber Lor Sabourin into northern Arizona’s sandstone canyons, where Lor takes on the hardest pitches of their career and works to create a climbing community where everyone can thrive as their authentic self. The Wind River Project follows a team of Type-1 diabetic climbers as they test themselves in Wyoming’s Wind River Range while also managing their complex and potentially life-threatening disease. Her daughter, Lindsay McCord, (link: https://nosc.org/staff/#LindsayM) currently serves as Education and Outreach Coordinator for the North Olympic Salmon Coalition, a community-based non-profit organization that performs salmon habitat restoration in Washington state.

Thank you, Mary! We’re grateful for everything you do for ONDA and Oregon’s high desert.



Stewardship Fence Building Timelapse

Stewardship Fence Building Timelapse


What defines Oregon’s high desert?

What defines Oregon’s high desert?

Bounded by the Cascade Mountains to the west and the Blue Mountains to the north, Oregon’s high desert covers approximately 24,000 square miles. Annual rainfall in the high desert varies from 5 to 14 inches. The average elevation is 4,000 feet; at 9,733 feet, the summit of Steens Mountain is the highest point in Oregon’s high desert. The terrain of the high desert was mostly formed by a series of lava flows that occurred between 30 and 10 million years ago.

Sources: The Oregon Encyclopedia; Wikipedia  


Reid Williams, 2021 Conservationist of the Year

Reid Williams, 2021 Conservationist of the Year

How far are you willing to hike for conservation? Reid Williams offered to put in more than 20 miles a day, by himself, walking and monitoring fence lines on Beatys Butte. And that was on top of weekly visits to the ONDA office, where he is always eager to help with extra projects. In acknowledgment of his willingness and helpful spirit, ONDA named him our 2021 Conservationist of the Year.