Independent Stewards

Sage Brown   Website

Oregon Natural Desert Association’s Independent Stewards program offers volunteers a self-directed option for promoting a healthy high desert in addition to our structured option of guided stewardship trips. ONDA provides participants with resources and specific assignments; they learn new skills and complete critical tasks while giving their high desert adventures an elevated purpose.

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Julie Weikel on Wilderness

Julie Weikel on Wilderness

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Helen Harbin, ONDA Board Member

Helen Harbin, ONDA Board Member

“I connect with Oregon’s high desert through my feet, my eyes, my sense of smell, and all the things I hear. Getting out there is a whole body experience.” Supporting ONDA, Helen says, not only connects her with wild landscapes, but is also a good investment. “I felt like if I gave them $20, they might squeeze $23 out of it.”

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Craig Terry, ONDA member and stewardship volunteer

Craig Terry, ONDA member and stewardship volunteer

“The people I have had the privilege to share time with each season keep me volunteering again and again. Who else but those ONDA staff leaders would make fresh coffee at dawn each morning or pack a watermelon all day to serve as a reward under a juniper in a steep canyon?” Craig, who grew up in northwestern Nevada, says ONDA connects him with places he loves and a mission he believes in. “My grandfather and his father put up wire fences for their ranching needs. Taking out barbed wire sort of completes a circle for me.”

An independent steward’s work

Independent stewards assist ONDA with important projects while enjoying the high desert on their own. Stewards receive guidance from ONDA, but are primarily self-directed. A steward can choose to either visit an area where ONDA needs assistance or can ask about visiting an area of his/her own preference and see if ONDA is in need of information from that region.

Examples of projects include backpacking or driving through desert wildlands and recording data, taking high-quality geo-tagged photos in one of our focus areas, and repeatedly visiting a significant site, such as a spring or an archaeological site, to monitor changes.

Wildlands monitoring

Eastern Oregon contains over 2.5 million acres of Wilderness Study Areas (WSAs). Each WSA is managed by the BLM. Independent Stewards help ensure these places maintain their Wilderness Characteristics by signing up to monitor the condition out in the field. Volunteers will drive, hike, and explore within and around the WSA to document impacts they see while they are out. Email Lisa@onda.org if you’d like to learn more about how to sign up and monitor a WSA.

Why it’s helpful

While the number of stewardship trips we host has continually grown over the years, there is always more work to be done on Oregon’s vast high desert public lands. Independent stewards are critical partners in getting more stewardship work in the high desert done, and perhaps even bringing new stewardship needs to light as they explore Oregon’s dry side with a trained eye.

How do I get started?

ONDA offers periodic trainings to equip volunteers to become independent stewards. Once trained, stewards can peruse tasks on the ONDA Independent Stewards program webpage. The tasks are described in detail and ONDA may provide additional specific information or materials depending on the assignment. Independent stewards then relay their experience and/or data back to ONDA.

Contact Lisa Foster at Lisa@onda.org to learn more about the next training opportunity.

Sage Brown   Website

Sage Brown   Website

Sage Brown   Website

ONDA

Michael O'Casey