Securing protective designations

Sage Brown   Website

Oregon Natural Desert Association is the only group dedicated exclusively to securing the highest level of protection for wild lands and waters in Oregon’s high desert. 

Wild lands can be protected from harmful development and other impacts when they are designated as National Parks, National Monuments, or wilderness areas. Wild rivers can be designated as Wild and Scenic Rivers. The highest level of protection available for public lands — even stronger than National Park status — is designation as wilderness.

Oregon Natural Desert Association has successfully led campaigns that established the first, and only, wilderness areas in Oregon’s high desert: Steens Mountain Wilderness, Oregon Badlands Wilderness and Spring Basin Wilderness.

Even with the future of those remarkable landscapes secured, our work is just beginning. Only 1 percent of Oregon’s desert public lands are protected as Wilderness. And, statewide, only 2% of Oregon’s rivers are protected as Wild and Scenic.

Many exceptional public lands and waters in Oregon’s sagebrush steppe upwards of eight million acres of desert land and over a thousand miles of desert waterways are in great need of conservation action.

To learn more about ONDA’s work to secure Wild and Scenic River designations for Oregon’s desert rivers, visit:


Sage Steppes

Sage Steppes


What defines Oregon’s high desert?

What defines Oregon’s high desert?

Bounded by the Cascade Mountains to the west and the Blue Mountains to the north, Oregon’s high desert covers approximately 24,000 square miles. Annual rainfall in the high desert varies from 5 to 14 inches. The average elevation is 4,000 feet; at 9,733 feet, the summit of Steens Mountain is the highest point in Oregon’s high desert. The terrain of the high desert was mostly formed by a series of lava flows that occurred between 30 and 10 million years ago.

Sources: The Oregon Encyclopedia; Wikipedia  


Great Basin Spadefoot Toads – a sleepy chorus

Great Basin Spadefoot Toads – a sleepy chorus

Sean Bagshaw   Website

Desert Rivers

In Oregon’s high desert, water is life. Rivers, streams, creeks and lakes are critical to everything Oregonians value about desert public lands, from fish and wildlife to recreation and clean […]

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To learn more about our campaigns to protect our desert lands as wilderness, visit:

Enjoying Wilderness Areas

“Take only memories, leave nothing but footprints.” – Chief Si’ahl

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The Wilderness Act of 1964

Thanks to the Wilderness Act of 1964, future generations of Americans can experience the same landscapes that we have the opportunity to explore and enjoy today. ONDA campaigns to see qualified desert […]

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