Notes from the Desert

Jim Harrison

Oregon Natural Desert Association takes a holistic approach to conservation in Oregon’s high desert, pairing efforts to protect large landscapes with intensive on-the-ground restoration.
Here are recaps from a few of the stewardship trips and projects that ONDA led in 2022 to enhance the health of Oregon’s high desert.

You can see photos from all of the trips we led in this collection


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.”




Bitteroot blooms on north-facing cliffs in western North America.

The Paiute name for bitteroot is kangedya. Traditional Native American uses of the plant included eating the roots, mixed with berries and meat, and using the roots to treat sore throats.



Wind and Birds in Quaking Aspen

Wind and Birds in Quaking Aspen

Central Oregon Backcountry:
Maintaining Trails

Over a series of trips early in 2022, volunteers established the Nighthawk Trail, to completing the connection between Reynolds Pond and the Tumulus Trailhead, which is the eastern terminus of the Oregon Desert Trail and also maintained the Chitwood Loop Trail.

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John Day River Basin:
Restoring Streams

Working in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service, volunteers planted 3,000 willow and cottonwood trees along two tributaries of the Middle Fork John Day River on Beaver Creek and Ruby Creek. Their work on this trip, and other trips in the region, is improving riparian habitat for species like steelhead and Chinook salmon.

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proud volunteers at fall 2022 fence pull at Beatys Butte

Greater Hart-Sheldon:
Retrofitting Fences

Ta-da! These volunteers replaced a full mile of barbed wire with smooth wire fencing at Beatys Butte. This area is a critical piece of the pronghorn migration corridor between Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge and the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge, and prime sage-grouse habitat as well, and retrofitting these fences improve habitat connectivity and keeps these sensitive species safe from harm. This was just one of several trips in this area.

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McDermitt Caldera:
Documenting Natural Values

Volunteers from all over Oregon camped out in the McDermitt Caldera to learn about the history and ecology of the McDermitt Creek watershed and the environmental implications of a potential mine in the area. They heard from members of the Fort McDermitt Paiute and Shoshone Tribe, an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist, and representatives from a local ranching operation, and left with new knowledge on the potential impacts of the mine to the region's cultural values, wildlife habitat and livelihoods.

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Steens Mountain:
Rehabilitating Wilderness

Hardy volunteers and ONDA staff partnered with the Burns District Bureau of Land Management to rehabilitate the eastern end of Burnt Car Road where illegal off-road use has occurred in the Steens Mountain Wilderness.

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Stewardship Trips 2022

All the trips described above are just some of the stewardship trips that ONDA led in 2022. For a look at what elese ONDA volunteers accomplished while working all across the high desert, see this collection of photo albums.

See the Collection

Independent Stewards

Working at their own pace and on their own schedule, yolunteers contributed close to 2,000 hours on 17 different independent stewards projects across the high desert this year. Their efforts included monitoring wilderness study areas and Wild and Scenic Rivers, tracking negative impacts related to recreation and grazing, maintaining trails and more.

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