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.


Volunteer Accomplishment in Hart-Sheldon

Volunteer Accomplishment in Hart-Sheldon


Central Oregon’s “Backyard Wilderness”

Central Oregon’s “Backyard Wilderness”

Our quest to protect the Oregon Badlands

Located just 15 miles east of Bend, Oregon Badlands is a 30,000-acre wilderness area filled with fascinating lava flows and ancient juniper trees Arriving in the Badlands, so named for its rugged and harsh terrain, can feel like stepping

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Mary McCord, ONDA Volunteer

Mary McCord, ONDA Volunteer

“I find enjoyment in the peaceful wide open spaces, geology, and rich history of Oregon’s high desert,” says Mary. Reflecting on volunteering, she continues, “If you have the ability and desire, it’s important to do something to contribute. It doesn’t have to be big, because every little bit helps.”

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.