Fences in the High Desert

620,000 miles — enough to stretch around the earth nearly 25 times. That is the estimated number of miles of fencing currently crisscrossing the American West, according to researchers at UC Berkeley, who note that “fence modifications for conservation might be more urgent than currently recognized.”

The impact of fences on wildlife is a top concern for ONDA and pulling barbed wire fence is deeply rooted in ONDA’s 35-year history.

After ONDA successfully pressured the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove cattle from the Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge in 1994, we began leading volunteer trips to remove the now-obsolete barbed wire fences from the refuge because fences can be so detrimental to wildlife safety and migration. When we completed this effort in 2012, volunteers had pulled over 300 miles of barbed wire off the refuge.

In the decade since then, ONDA has broadened our work on fences to include not just removal, but mending, retrofitting, and even building fences. Why might ONDA build fence in some places and remove them in others? Read on to find out, and learn about opportunities to help with all aspects of ONDA’s fence work this fall.

 

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Jeremy Fox on Steens Landscape

Jeremy Fox on Steens Landscape

voices

Nate Wilson-Traisman, member since 2019

Nate Wilson-Traisman, member since 2019

“My greatest hope is that Oregon’s desert continues to gain public lands protections, and is guarded from unsustainable development, so that future generations may benefit from all the region has to offer.

I felt inspired by trips to Oregon’s high desert, and was actively searching for ways to contribute to the protection of these wild places. ONDA stood out as a leader in this respect, and when I’ve had money to contribute, ONDA has been a clear choice.”

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The Last Darkness

The Last Darkness

Mending fences

Where fences still serve a functional purpose, ONDA works with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and other public land managers to repair fences and make them friendlier to wildlife. In a process called “retrofitting,” we will replace some of the barbed wires with smooth wire, which is easier for wildlife like pronghorn antelope to scoot under.

Come help make fences friendlier to pronghorn on our Beatys Butte projects this fall.

Building Fences

In places where there is active cattle grazing, it is necessary to build fences to exclude cattle from the sensitive areas where ONDA is restoring native plants and wildlife habitat. This fall, we are offering two trips to the rugged South Fork Crooked River canyon where volunteers are building a fence to protect a section of the river for future restoration.

Removing Fences

In addition to Hart Mountain, ONDA has also removed all of the barbed wire fences from the cattle-free Steens Mountain Wilderness, as well as many of the fences in the Pine Creek Conservation Area, which is owned by the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. This fall, ONDA volunteers will remove fences at Hay Creek, the site of a successful ONDA stream restoration project. Note: This trip is full, but interested volunteers may still sign up to be placed on the waitlist.