ONDA’s 2021 Conservationist of the Year
Often the most important contributions to conservation are not the flashiest actions, but quiet acts of service. Luckily, people like Reid Williams see the value in such contributions, and enjoy them. Reid’s commitment to supporting ONDA’s work in remote stretches of the desert and behind the scenes, and doing it all with a smile, is what earned him the title of ONDA’s 2021 Conservationist of the Year.
The Conservationist of the Year award, formerly known as the volunteer of the year award, was started in 2013 to honor the person who made the most significant contribution to the conservation of Oregon’s high desert in the most recent year.
An experienced long-distance backpacker, Reid hiked the entire Pacific Crest Trail in 2019, and his experience on the trail motivated him to get involved in conserving public lands.
“I gained a big appreciation for all the work that happened before me to create and maintain the trail, advocate for the trail and advocate for the wilderness areas, National Parks and all the public lands along the way! When I finished I wanted to give back in my local community and learn about new areas,” Reid explained.
In 2021, he put his hiking chops to use helping ONDA survey and document the condition of 6.5 miles of fence in Beatys Butte region of southeast Oregon.
“I immediately knew his contributions would be helpful when he indicated his willingness to hike more than 20 miles a day for our projects!” said ONDA’s Stewardship Program Coordinator, Renee Patrick. “Reid even reached out in January this year wanting to take advantage of the unseasonably warm and sunny weather throughout the high desert to go back to the Hart-Sheldon Region and continue monitoring.”
But perhaps more significant than the backcountry miles Reid put in during 2021 were his contributions to the less glamorous, but no less important behind the scenes tasks during his weekly volunteer sessions in the ONDA office, during which he estimates he has helped ONDA send thousands of donation acknowledgment letters out to our members.
“Reid has been a great help to me and the rest of ONDA’s membership team this past year. He has been coming in every week and helping out with thank you letters, and he is always eager to help with extra projects around the office,” said Karina Diaz, ONDA’s Development Coordinator. “Even when the work is a little repetitive he always has a smile on his face and expresses his willingness to help ONDA.”
In addition to his weekly service in the office, Reid made several trips to the sagebrush sea of the Hart-Sheldon region in the past year, walking and monitoring fence lines for ONDA’s Beatys Butte fence inventory independent stewards project. The goal of this project is to identify fences that could endanger pronghorn antelope and greater sage grouse. Reid’s contributions to this project will be the catalyst for future ONDA stewardship trips to modify existing barbed wire fences to be more wildlife-friendly and remove barbed wire fences that are no longer needed, restoring migration corridors for pronghorn and other wildlife.
Outside the Hart-Sheldon region, Reid has found lots to love in his travels throughout Oregon’s high desert, including The Honeycombs in the Owyhee Canyonlands, the Donner und Blitzen loop on Steens Mountain, packrafting the John Day River, and the Rome Station milkshakes. When he’s not out wandering the sagebrush sea, you can find Reid exploring other parts of Oregon (honorable mention to Northeastern Oregon), reading, skiing, mountaineering, and looking for the best burrito in Bend.
Thank you, Reid! We’re grateful for this opportunity to “sing” your unsung efforts!