Meet Mary Powell

Author: Allison Crotty  |  Published: February 2, 2022  |  Category: Profile

ONDA’s 2021 Alice Elshoff Award Recipient

Mary Powell is a woman of many talents. Need to spruce up an event venue, reach out to Mary and she’ll create elegant native flower bouquets sourced from her property. Find yourself with an opening on a restoration field work trip, Mary is there for you. Have an outreach opportunity where you’d like to draw new conservation supporters into the fold, Mary is your first call. Need a laugh at the end of a long day, you can count on Mary.

In honor of her many and varied contributions to high desert conservation, Oregon Natural Desert Association has named Mary Powell as our 2021 Alice Elshoff Conservation Award recipient.

An annual donor since 2010, Mary has pitched in at the ONDA office on dozens of occasions and volunteered at more than 25 restoration work trips and 50 public events.

In addition to all this, Mary is a visionary donor who worked with ONDA to provide the financial support needed to launch a paid internship program in 2021. Named the Hillis Internship in honor and memory of her late husband Harv, Mary’s actions will foster the next generation of conservation leaders. ONDA recently shared Mary and Harv’s inspiring story on our blog.


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.”


Helen Harbin on Wildlife

Helen Harbin on Wildlife


Elisa Cheng, member since 2013

Elisa Cheng, member since 2013

“ONDA stewardship trips inspire me. I get to learn new things and see new places, and in the process perform important work that improves the wildlife habitat.”

Bringing thoughtful questions

Accepting a joint Volunteer of the Year Award with Phyllis Pengelly

Sage-grouse lek monitoring trip, Hart Mountain

Having stood shoulder-to-shoulder working with Mary at many busy ONDA events, I am delighted to see her recognized with this lifetime achievement award. Mary’s kindness, upbeat energy, can-do spirit, and relentless commitment to conservation are beyond compare.

ONDA established the Elshoff Award in 2008 to honor individuals who embody ONDA’s conservation values, and to celebrate their significant contributions to protecting Oregon’s desert wilderness.

About being named the 2021 Alice Elshoff Conservation Award recipient, Mary said, “ONDA has always been near and dear to our hearts, and we never expected anything in return. The chance to help ONDA has been award enough. I am so deeply honored.”

If you haven’t already met Mary while monitoring sage-grouse, harvesting native plants, or at the Wild and Scenic Film Festival, you can get to know her and learn her reasons for supporting conservation in Oregon’s high desert in this short video produced by ONDA in 2020.

In this video, Mary describes the ONDA community as “family” and shares her appreciation for all the people she’s met and things she’s learned while volunteering with ONDA.

Well, the feeling is mutual Mary! Thank you for your many whole-hearted contributions to our community.