Meet Six Steady ONDA Members

Devin Dahlgren

ONDA turned 33 this year, and more than a few of our members have been with us ever since our founding in the mid-eighties. We love the perspective that those long-time desert advocates bring! We also appreciate all the fresh ideas and excited questions that folks who are new to the desert and new to ONDA have.

And, of course, many people, like the six members profiled below, fall in between longtime and brand new members, and we value the steady support that these members who renew year after year provide.

Whether you’re celebrating your first, third or 33rd “ONDA-versary” in 2020, thank you for the value you add to ONDA’s conservation work! Here’s a chance to get to know a few of the people who, like you, contribute to ONDA’s success.

Wendy Wheeler-Jacobs member since 2015

An accomplished trail runner and self-described outdoor lover, Wendy Wheeler-Jacobs was initially drawn to ONDA through her passion for conservation and trail maintenance. Upon moving to Redmond from the Seattle area, Wendy brought with her a strong conservation ethic and outdoor experience, including time spent on the Washington Trails Association board.

Wendy’s incredible energy has served a number of ONDA initiatives, from restoration to the Wild Desert Calendar. One of her favorite ONDA memories came during a 2019 stewardship trip, where she and fellow volunteers spent three days improving a section of the Oregon Desert Trail in the Fremont-Winema National Forest. Restoring overgrown trails is no small feat, so this being a favorite memory of Wendy’s is indicative of the enthusiasm she brings to the ONDA community!

Wendy supports high desert conservation initiatives year-round. She became a member of ONDA’s Sage Society for the convenience of monthly giving and the consistent support it provides to ONDA’s key programs throughout the year. In the future, Wendy hopes to see more areas of Oregon’s high desert protected.

What inspires Wendy to continue supporting ONDA: “This is unique country and it deserves stewardship. I love that we still have wild places we can get away to where you can find solitude.”

Wendy’s favorite places in Oregon’s high desert: “Probably Summer Lake, or Alvord Desert … but I haven’t been to the Steens.”


Terry Graham member since 2015

A “diehard desert rat,” Terry Graham grew up exploring the desert around Reno, Nevada looking for prehistoric sites, reptiles, antelope and coyote and reveling in the beauty and tranquility of the desert. After relocating to the Pacific Northwest, Terry once again gravitated to the desert, this time in Oregon.

Terry attributes his drive to support conservation and restoration in Oregon’s high desert to his upbringing, as well as to his late wife Susan, who was a strong conservation advocate and desert enthusiast. Much like his early desert explorations, it was his search for wildland volunteer opportunities to honor Susan’s conservation legacy that led Terry to ONDA.

Conservation and a love of the desert run in the family. Besides his adventures hiking, backpacking, geocaching and learning to kayak – to name just a few – Terry loves spending time with his son, daughter and two young grandsons. Terry’s greatest hope for the future of conserving and restoring Oregon’s high desert is for his grandsons, who are now seven and eight, “to be able to seek, if they choose, the wilds of thriving deserts.”

To make this hope a reality, Terry contributes monthly to ONDA, a sustaining commitment to wild places that is inspired by Susan. Terry has also participated in a stewardship trip with ONDA, which he found to be “full of camaraderie, educational and memorable.”

Terry’s favorite place in Oregon’s high desert: “Entire area south of Burns. I feel at home.”


Bunny and Mark Thompson members since 2015

Cusick’s beardtongue
Photo: Chris Christie

Asked to name their favorite high desert place, Bunny and Mark Thompson said words familiar to many ONDA members – too hard to choose! On their long list: the Alvord Desert for its history and unique landscape, the Owyhee for the solitude and peace one can find there, the John Day Fossil Beds for the opportunities to explore and learn from the landscape, and Steens Mountain for its sunsets and wildlife.

Bunny and Mark’s deep appreciation for this diverse region is echoed in their commitment to achieving conservation solutions. They recognize the power of community in conservation work, citing the combined efforts of concerned citizens to stay vigilant and informed of short-sighted policies as the path to combatting threats and preserving the high desert for generations to come. In Bunny’s words, “It is incredibly important to save and preserve the desert. Once this resource is gone, it will be gone forever, never to return as a natural habitat. I want this resource to be here and accessible to my grandchildren and their grandchildren.”

Besides giving back to their community through volunteering and supporting conservation initiatives, Mark and Bunny can be found fishing, hiking, skiing or boating with friends and family in the John Day River Basin and other high desert lands they protect as ONDA members.

What Bunny and Mark appreciate about this environment: “We … have always marveled at the intricacy and beauty of the desert. When you take the time to look closely at the environment, it’s amazing what all there is to see in the desert.”

What motivates them to renew their ONDA membership: “Supporting ONDA and continually subscribing to this organization is a small effort that has many gains and rewards.”


Erin and Derek Gaines members since 2015

A few summers ago, while visiting Oregon from Arlington, Virginia where she worked for Senator Wyden, Erin Gaines joined ONDA for a day trip to Cathedral Rock and Horse Heaven. The wild, one-of-a-kind scenery she found there inspired a strong connection to the high desert. Upon moving to Oregon, Erin and Derek became ONDA members and Erin joined ONDA’s board of directors in order to help protect the incredible landscapes of their new home state.

Although this year has inspired some adventures closer to home in Portland, like trying new take-out restaurants and building a swing set for their daughter Ellena, Erin and Derek are excited to explore the high desert with Ellena as she gets older. Fly fishing on the Deschutes and John Day rivers, camping at Cottonwood Canyon State Park, and hiking throughout the high desert are all on the list of adventures they look forward to having as a family.

Besides sharing their favorite high desert places with Ellena, Erin and Derek will also impart their commitment to protecting these places. In Erin’s words, “I want to set an example for my daughter so she grows up with an appreciation of nature and the unique landscapes of her home state, and understands the importance of supporting the places and causes we care about.”

What inspires Erin’s drive to support conservation in Oregon: “The Oregon high desert is such a beautiful and unique landscape; it’s fragile and resilient all at once. When I’m out there, I feel a sense of connection to the land and the communities who call it home. I want these communities to have a healthy environment to help them thrive and I want all Oregonians to get to experience the beauty and awe of the high desert for years to come.”


To all of our members and desert advocates, thank you for all you do for this incredible region. Do you have a story you would like to share? Let us know!

Photo: Owyhee River, Devin Dahlgren


Ursula K. Le Guin on ONDA

Ursula K. Le Guin on ONDA

“Nothing in conservation work is ever uncomplicated! But I’m proud of ONDA for working on that conversation, being neighborly, trying to include the human landscape in the natural one as truly part of what is to be honored, protected, and saved.”

Ursula K. Le Guin, from the short essay Concerning a Wilderness


Jane Heisler, Sage Sustainers Member

Jane Heisler, Sage Sustainers Member

I love to travel and I love the desert! Supporting ONDA monthly allows me to hit the road without forgetting Oregon’s high desert—even when I’m not there.


Stewardship Pronghorn Fence

Stewardship Pronghorn Fence