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Silvies Ranch Aspen Planting

ONDA has been invited to take part in a new project that assesses restoration techniques on a 60,000 acre ranch encompassing the headwaters of the Silvies River. We will plant trees to assist the restoration effort and take a look at the unique way that the watershed is being prepped for the return of beavers!
When Jun 01, 2012 05:00 PM to
Jun 03, 2012 09:00 AM
Where Silvies Ranch
Contact Name
Contact Phone (541) 330-2638
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Nature doesn't observe boundaries.  Public resources like fish and wildlife, and clean water, are impacted by activities on public and private lands.  Conservation efforts must blur these boundaries as well, in order to truly be able to holistically address the issues that are effecting the health of high desert ecosystems.  For these reasons, ONDA must work both on public and private lands.  Our new partnership on private lands with the Silvies Ranch north of Burns offers rewards and results with far-reaching consequences.

The 60,000 acre Silvies Ranch has come under new ownership, and the business plan calls for shifting the focus away from cattle grazing, and towards eco-tourism and an eco-resort.  The management plan for the watershed includes extensive riparian restoration efforts to reverse the effects of decades of over-grazing and erosion.

ONDA has been invited to help guide some of the restoration efforts and to serve as an impartial monitor to assess the effectiveness of a novel approach to accelerating the process of natural restoration.  If the plan works, the impacts could be far reaching.

Riparian systems on the ranch have been denuded of woody vegetation and have eroded themselves deep in the fragile soil.  The result is a water table drop that prevents any riparian vegetation from growing in the former floodplain.  What before grazing was a wide swath of damp ground full of trees and birds on either side of a clear, occasionally flooding stream, is now left barren, high and dry, right up to the edge of an eroded mini canyon.  Sadly, this is a common story throughout the west.

The objective is to stop the stream from eroding deeper, and to raise the water table again to re-connect it with its old flood plain resulting in that broad green corridor of trees, willows and other critical riparian habitat features that have been lost.

ONDA has taken part in many efforts to restore similar ecosystems (Cherry Creek, Robinson Creek) by planting thousands of trees.  These trees provide erosion control, and construction materials and food for beaver in future years that can dam the stream and raise water tables.  On Bridge Creek we are helping beaver create stronger dams by placing anchor posts in the stream to help keep their dams from washing away until the planted trees grow big enough to serve as anchors.

A problem with these approaches is that it can takes years and years for an ecosystem to visibly improve and change.  At Silvies Ranch we will be able jump start the process by creating artificial dams: this will raise the water tables right away, and provide a large floodplain allowing replanting and recovery.  The reason we are able to use this technique on these test streams is because they have eroded to the point that the native redband in the watershed are no longer using these streams (and therefore we are not destroying native habitat by creating dams) and the landowner is financing the extremely expensive dam work, and our monitoring of the project's success.

By being a partner in this project we will have access to the streams for accurately monitoring the project's success, and the credibility to teach others, both private and public land managers about the intricacies of the technique to improve their own streams.

HERE is a Google map showing the general location of the ranch.


  • June 1 (Friday PM) We'll all arrive at the cabin/campsite
  • June 2 8AM to 3or 4PM  A full day of planting aspens in the riparian corridor of one of our test streams.
  • June 3.  A morning tour of some of the streams where restoration has already started to learn more about the project!



We will be planting aspen root-stock. The staff on the ranch will dig the holes; our job will be to plant the tree in the hole, fill it back in with dirt, and cage it with wire fencing to keep anything from browsing on them.  If we finish with enough time, and depending on folks' schedules on Sunday we will have time to do some photo-monitoring of the creeks that have varying degrees of the dam building process completed.


Silvies Ranch has offered us the use of their swank bunkhouse.  This will allow us to have running water, a rest room (complete with outdoor, hot water showers), and a place to cook (cookware/food not provided).  Folks are 100% able to camp outside the cabin as well if you would prefer the sounds of nature.  We'll of course tidy things up before we leave (front-country leave no trace!)



1 out of 5.  This trip should be pretty laid back.  We will be moving trees around and making small fences. Photo-monitoring will be a nice stroll.
Click HERE for a description of the trip difficulty rating system.

Participants are responsible for their own food and camping gear as well as transportation to and from the trip. Sturdy off-trail ankle-high boots are recommended for this trip.   This trip is offered to members free of charge.

ONDA will provide planting tools, trees, extra gloves, earplugs, and guidance in the field.


This trip will be led by ONDA's Wilderness Stewardship Assistant Michael O'Casey.
Group size is limited to 15 participants.

An ONDA registration application and medical form is required for this trip. Click HERE for the form.  You only need to fill this form out once per year: You can join additional 2012 trips by e-mailing the trip leader directly. 

You will receive a confirmation e-mail within 10 working days of submitting your form.  The confirmation e-mail will provide information regarding which trips you are on the "participant list" for, and which trips are full, and therefore you have been placed on the "wait list".  Five weeks before the start of the trip, the trip leader will send out an RSVP to make sure everyone is still able to participate. Based on RSVPs open spaces will be backfilled with people from the wait list.  Three weeks before the trip begins, the trip leader will send out an e-mail with additional information, maps, driving instructions, car-pooling options etc. However, if you have any questions in the meantime, please don't hesitate to contact the trip leader.

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Oregon Natural Desert Association
50 SW Bond Street, Suite 4,
Bend, OR 97702
Tel: (541) 330-2638

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