North Springs Mesic Restoration

Jeremy Austin

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Helen Harbin on Wildlife

Helen Harbin on Wildlife

voices

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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Greater Sage Grouse and Sparrows at Hart Mountain

Greater Sage Grouse and Sparrows at Hart Mountain

Organizer: Jefferson Jacobs

Dates: September 16-19, 2023

Region: Greater Hart-Sheldon

Difficulty Rating: Level 4: Strenuous

Maximum Group Size: 16 participants

About the place

The Beatys Butte region includes an area of traditional aboriginal use by the Burns Paiute Tribe. The Tribe has a small reservation in Harney County, located near Burns; the Burns Paiute People are the descendants of the Northern Paiute, or Wadatika people. The Wadatika’s homeland encompasses a territory from the Cascades east past what is now Boise, and from the Columbia south well into Nevada. Learn more about The Burns Paiute Tribe here.

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 represents the beginning of a series of projects that will provide a demonstration of what restoration work can accomplish in the Beatys Butte area. By working to restore the hydrology and plant communities around springs and other mesic areas on the ODLT property we will be providing an example of what these areas can potentially look like: an example of a functioning community that has been missing from the surrounding landscape for likely over 100 years.  With this example in place we will have an even more convincing argument to collaborate with the BLM on expanding restoration work to the dozens and dozens of other springs and mesic areas on public lands surrounding Beatys Butte.

On this trip we will focus on “step one” 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 what riparian restoration professionals would refer to as “structure”, but to anyone else, might look like tiny beaver dams in the creek to act as “speed bumps” to slow the water, raise the water table and allow the stream bed to “aggrade” (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 again.  These areas will then become incredible “grocery stores” providing rare and highly sought after plant, insect and animal resources for a wide number of species!

Trip timeline

  • Saturday, September 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.
  • Sunday-Monday, September 17-18, 8 am to 4 pm: A full day of work loppering brush, collecting rock and building structures in the creek bed.
  • Tuesday September 19, 8 am: After breakfast we can pack up camp and head on home!

Camp

We will be car-camping near to the property and 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. The access road is an unmaintained dirt road, but it is not too much for 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, sawing and loppering sagebrush, which also 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.  There are always opportunities to rest and work at your own pace.

Participant responsibilities

Participants are responsible for their own food 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.

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.

Apply Now

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.