Alvord Desert Monitoring

Sean Bagshaw   Website


Julie Weikel on Wilderness

Julie Weikel on Wilderness




Bitteroot blooms on north-facing cliffs in western North America.

The Paiute name for bitteroot is kangedya. Traditional Native American uses of the plant included eating the roots, mixed with berries and meat, and using the roots to treat sore throats.



Scott Bowler, ONDA member from Portland

Scott Bowler, ONDA member from Portland

The desert speaks for itself, but very softly. I support ONDA to promote and enable discovery of the amazing beauty and recreational opportunities of the high desert by much broader groups of people; and most especially to protect forever the full and diverse landscape of the Owyhee Canyonlands, a place without parallel or equal in our country.”

Organizer: Stewardship Team

Project Timeline: 4/01/2023 through 10/31/2023

Region: Steens Mountain Region

Difficulty Rating: Level 1: Easy

Volunteers Needed: No limit

About the place

This project takes place on the traditional lands of the Northern Paiute people. Many Indigenous peoples live in Oregon’s high desert region today, including members of the Burns Paiute Tribe, the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs (Wasco, Warm Springs and Paiute), the Klamath Tribes (Klamath, Modoc and Yahooskin) and the Fort McDermitt Paiute and Shoshone Tribe.

The Alvord Desert Wilderness Study Area is an iconic attraction in Oregon’s high desert. The 50-mile long Steens Mountain creates a rain shadow for this 35+ square mile desert wonder, and increasingly people from all over Oregon (and the world) have discovered the joys of camping and recreating on the playa.

About the project

Through ONDA’s partnership with the Burns BLM District, we learned of the unprecedented use of the Alvord Desert Wilderness Study Area (WSA) in 2020-21, largely due to the Coronavirus pandemic. BLM staff stated use of the Alvord Desert was 3-4 times what “normal” use was in previous years, with the busy season running from April through October. During these times trash accumulation and impacts on the surrounding wildlife habitat reached critical levels.

Unlike most Wilderness Study Areas which do not allow vehicle use off of designated roads, the Bureau of Land Management does allow vehicular traffic (per the Alvord Desert WSA management plan), although driving on the flat is only advised during the dry season (July through October).

Through this project, volunteers will utilize a recreation impact monitoring application to visit known hotspots on the Alvord Desert to record visitor information and perform a variety of stewardship activities.

There will also be opportunities to join the BLM for group clean-up days on the playa.


Kjell Sullivan   Website

This is a recreation impact monitoring and maintenance project

  • Included in the monitoring and maintenance project:
    1. Use the RIMS (Recreation Monitoring Impact System) app on your smartphone to identify and record information on visitor use, trail and signage conditions, campsites and fire ring locations and more.
    2. Pick up trash.
    3. Brush out vehicle (bike or car) trespass incursions (beyond the allowed motorized use area) – after documenting the impacts.
    4. Remove, disperse, and camouflage identified campsite impacts and fire rings.
    5. Monitor for negative wildlife interactions
    6. Hand out wag bags with included responsible recreation information.


This project will involve multiple volunteers during the year. The playa will ideally be visited our group of ONDA volunteers at least 1-2 times a month between April and October (or when the Alvord Desert is dry), although scheduling visits throughout the year will help us and the BLM gauge use in the ever diminishing “off-season.” You are welcome to make more than one trip. We ask volunteers who sign up for this project to make at least one monitoring trip in 2023 for a minimum of four hours.


Level 1

This trip could require some moderate physical work, but because the project is self-directed you can hike/monitor as your body and time allows.


An ONDA registration application and medical form are required for this project.

Project Details

All the information you will need to know about this independent project will be emailed to you after your registration is complete. Each project page has extensive information about access, technology, tools, maps and more. Please be prepared to spend 1-2 hours reviewing this information prior to heading out on your project, the good news is that time spent reviewing and preparing for your trip all counts towards your volunteer hours.

 Apply Now