North Springs Mesic Restoration

Jeremy Austin

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John Cunningham, ONDA member and volunteer

John Cunningham, ONDA member and volunteer

Restoration is hard slow work. It takes hold, or it doesn’t, in fits and starts. The immensity of the need can be discouraging, but we must carry on. I am so thankful ONDA carries on.

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Volunteer Accomplishment in Hart-Sheldon

Volunteer Accomplishment in Hart-Sheldon

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Michelle Frisella, member since 2017

Michelle Frisella, member since 2017

So proud of ONDA and its members and volunteers. Such hard work gets done. To use an overused word, this is patriotism!

Organizer: Jefferson Jacobs

Dates: May 16-19, 2024

Region: Greater Hart-Sheldon

Difficulty Rating: Level 4: Strenuous

Maximum Group Size: 15 participants

About the place

ONDA’s conservation work takes place on the traditional lands of the Northern Paiute, Wasco, Warm Springs, Bannock and Shoshone people, as well as ceded lands of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, and on lands currently managed by the Burns Paiute Tribe and the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. Many Indigenous peoples live in Oregon’s high desert region today, including members of the Burns Paiute Tribe, the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs (Wasco, Warm Springs and Paiute), the Klamath Tribes (Klamath, Modoc and Yahooskin) and the Fort McDermitt Paiute and Shoshone Tribe.

Beatys Butte is an integral part of the “land between” Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge and Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge in BLM’s Lakeview District in south-central Oregon. Explore ONDA’s Greater Hart-Sheldon Storymap to learn more about this region. The area on and around the Beatys Butte supports a variety of wildlife and includes winter and migratory habitat for pronghorn antelope, and habitat for sage grouse, pygmy rabbits, western big-eared bats, ferruginous hawks, burrowing owls, desert and short-horned lizards, and other mammals and birds. The Beatys Butte Sagebrush Focal Area, is one of the six most important areas identified by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the long-term survival of the Greater sage grouse. The small springs and associated “mesic” habitat provide critical food resources to the wildlife in the area, serving as oases that are disproportionately important compared to their size.

This trip will take place on a 400 acre parcel of property owned by the Oregon Desert Land Trust (ODLT) on the north side of Beatys Butte.

About the stewardship work

This trip is part of a series of projects that will provide a demonstration of what habitat restoration work can accomplish in the Beatys Butte area. By working to restore the hydrology and plant communities around springs and other mesic areas at North Springs we will be providing an example of what these areas can potentially look like: thriving oases that have been missing from the surrounding landscape for over 100 years. This project will support ONDA’s efforts to collaborate with the BLM on expanding restoration work to the dozens of other springs and mesic areas on public lands surrounding Beatys Butte.

On this trip we will build on work begun in 2023, focusing on “step one” in our restoration process which is improving the hydrology of the site in preparation for planting. First we will cut out the giant sagebrush that moved in after the spring outflow eroded down and the surrounding area dried out. Then we will use use that material and a few rocks to build small structures in the creek modeled after tiny beaver dams to act as “speed bumps” to slow the water, raise the water table and allow the stream bed to “aggrade” (the opposite of “erode”).  We will be doing this mostly in dry channels to get them ready for flows in the spring of 2024. As soon as we see that the hydrology recovers enough (perhaps a year or two down the road) we can plant native riparian and mesic plants to hold it all together. These areas will then become incredible “grocery stores” providing rare and highly sought after plants, insect and animal nutrition for a wide number of species!

Trip timeline

  • Thursday, May 16, 5 pm: Meet at the North Springs/Beatys Butte property. You can set up camp and get settled in with dinner. We’ll have an evening orientation about the next days’ work.
  • Friday-Saturday, May 17-18, 8 am to 4 pm: Two full days of work cutting sagebrush with loppers and handsaws, collecting rocks and building structures in the creek bed.
  • Sunday May 19, 8 am: After breakfast we can pack up camp and head on home!

Camp

We will be car-camping near the restoration site at an undeveloped location with no running water or facilities, just wide open sagebrush steppe.  ONDA will provide some additional amenities such as shade/rain tarps, a few tables and extra chairs, and a latrine. The access road is an unmaintained dirt road, with a few brief sections of clunky rocks, but it is not too much for a small SUV such as a Subaru.

Difficulty

Level 4

This trip will be physically demanding. Access to the work site is only by foot (just under a mile) and we will likely be doing a variety of tasks that are physically demanding and repetitive such as gathering rocks, cutting sagebrush with loppers and handsaws, which involve a lot of “getting down low to the ground and then getting back up again”.  Footing is uneven.  It is likely to be hot and dry, without reliable shade at the work site.  However, there are always opportunities to rest and work at your own pace.

Participant responsibilities

Participants are responsible for their own food, water and camping gear, as well as transportation to and from the trip. Sturdy off-trail ankle-high boots are required for this trip. We recommend bringing your own work gloves to provide a comfortable fit, but it is not required.  Potable water is not available at the campsite, so volunteers will need to bring sufficient water for drinking and cooking during the course of the trip.  Trip leaders can help organize carpooling depending on need and availability.

Gear provided

ONDA will provide work gloves if you don’t have a pair, all the tools and materials required for the work, safety gear and excellent guidance in the field.

Registration

An ONDA registration application and medical form are required for this trip. Check the box next to each trip you would like to attend.

Join Waitlist

You will receive a confirmation email within 2 weeks of submitting your form. The confirmation email will provide information regarding which trips you are on the “participant list” for, and which trips are full, and therefore you have been placed on the “wait list.”

Six weeks before the start of the trip, the trip leader will send out an RSVP to make sure everyone is still able to participate. Based on RSVPs, open spaces will be backfilled with people from the waitlist.

Three weeks before the trip start date, registered and confirmed participants will receive driving instructions, maps, and additional information in an email sent by the trip leader

If you have any questions in the meantime, please don’t hesitate to contact the trip leader.