Helping Fish, Addressing Fire and Drought

Donna Raynalds

Author: Beth Macinko  |  Published: June 21, 2021  |  Categories: Look Back

ONDA volunteers plant thousands of willow and repair fences in the Malheur watershed

The native bull trout and redband trout in the Malheur River drainage, located south of Prairie City in the Malheur National Forest, can look forward to cooler river temperatures, thanks to the volunteers who helped the Malheur National Forest’s Prairie City Ranger District on creek restoration projects in May.

“ONDA volunteers and Forest Service staff collectively planted over 3,700 hardwood willow cuttings and over 650 spruce and larch seedlings, giving the riparian restoration a huge jump start!” said Allen Taylor, U.S. Forest Service Fish Biologist.

This successful planting effort took place along West Summit Creek, part of the Malheur River watershed which supports populations of native bull trout and redband trout.  It was the final step in the larger West Summit Creek Restoration Project led by Allen Taylor.

As an advocate for desert waterways, ONDA works on forest creeks that form the headwaters and tributary sources of the desert rivers. With each project, we are putting boots on the ground to ensure that the high desert is a healthy, thriving landscape.

Volunteers also repaired two miles of fences along Summit Creek that had been damaged by downed trees over the winter. The streamside fences were built to protect sections of the creek where restoration projects are in process from grazing by livestock. The repaired fence will protect more than 100 acres of critical riparian habitat and allow native plants to become established and spread.

Completing both these projects was an impressive feat for just eleven volunteers over the course of one month, but, then again, that’s the kind of hard work we’ve come to expect  from our determined volunteers.

Robust plant life along streams improves fish habitat by creating the shade which cools water temperatures, provides valuable nutrients for vigorous food webs, and provides forage for recovering beaver populations.

“All of this work, along with other associated landscape restoration actions, will make the area more resilient to future fire and drought, which will likely become more frequent due to climate change,” said Taylor.

“We enjoyed the sense of accomplishment in a short period of time of repairing a badly damaged fence,” said Bill Hull, a long-time ONDA member who was one of the project volunteers.

The planting and fence repair projects were funded in part by the National Forest Foundation, an organization chartered by Congress to engage the public in maintaining the health of national forest lands.

ONDA’s Independent Stewards projects allow people to take part in high-level volunteer projects on their own schedule. No prior experience is required, just a desire to help and to learn. If you’re interested in becoming a steward, you can subscribe to ONDA’s e-news to be alerted to opportunities throughout 2021.


Western Rattlesnake

Western Rattlesnake

Also known as the Great Basin Rattlesnake, these pit vipers have buff-tan coloring and small, oval blotches to blend into their arid surroundings. Small heat-sensing indentations on each side of the snake’s snout detects warm-blooded prey for better striking accuracy in the dark. Source: The Oregon Encyclopedia

Latin name: Crotalus oreganus lutosus


Terry Butler, 2018 Volunteer of the Year

Terry Butler, 2018 Volunteer of the Year

“If I have to pick a favorite place in Oregon’s high desert, it would be Sutton Mountain, but I’m excited about all of the Wilderness Study Areas,” says Terry, adding, “Each is a gem to explore, and I hope they all get protection someday… I love the scale of the physical beauty of the desert.”


Stewardship Pronghorn Fence

Stewardship Pronghorn Fence