Restoring Lands and Waters

Oregon Natural Desert Association sustains and enhances the health of Oregon’s high desert through stewardship and restoration.

ONDA takes a holistic approach to conservation in Oregon’s high desert, pairing intensive on-the-ground stewardship with efforts to protect large landscapes. ONDA partners with land management agencies, private landowners, and tribal entities to undertake long-term restoration projects to improve land, waterways, wildlife and communities in Oregon’s high desert. While much of our wild terrain is beautiful and pristine in many ways, human actions over time have negatively impacted some areas and our stewardship work helps restore those areas.

ONDA connects people to landscapes in need of care in three key ways:

  • Independent Stewards – We match interested people with meaningful projects in the desert. Participants gain new skills and give their desert adventures an elevated purpose.
  • Stewardship Trips – We lead guided, small group, multi-day service trips in some of Oregon’s most remote and beautiful landscapes.
  • Tribal Stewards – We partner with Northwest Youth Corps to introduce Indigenous teens and young adults to careers in natural resource management and to connect them with their current and ancestral homelands.

And, ONDA stewardship work can be sorted into four main categories:

Read on to learn about what’s involved with each type of restoration work and to learn about the wild places where we’ve made a long-term commitment to restoration.


Durlin Hicock, Alice Elshoff Award winner

Durlin Hicock, Alice Elshoff Award winner

“Protecting public land is part of my spiritual being. It’s central to my identity to be in wilderness and to see it protected.” Durlin is proud to protect public lands for future generations, saying, “The highlight of my childhood was our family’s weekend outdoor trips. I look forward to my grandchildren having similar experiences outside in their lifetimes, and it wouldn’t be possible without ONDA.”




Found only in North America, where it is the most common wildcat, the bobcat takes its common name from its stubby, or “bobbed,” tail. The cats range in length from two to four feet and weigh 14 to 29 pounds. Bobcats mainly hunt rabbits and hares, but they will also eat rodents, birds, bats, and even adult deer.

Latin name: Lynx rufus fasciatus



Helen Harbin, ONDA Board Member

Helen Harbin, ONDA Board Member

“I connect with Oregon’s high desert through my feet, my eyes, my sense of smell, and all the things I hear. Getting out there is a whole body experience.” Supporting ONDA, Helen says, not only connects her with wild landscapes, but is also a good investment. “I felt like if I gave them $20, they might squeeze $23 out of it.”

View our Stewardship Story Map

In our Restoring Oregon's Desert Landscapes Story Map, you can zoom into all the wilderness study areas we work in, watch our beaver dam building raise water levels and check out the impressive tally of work this community has accomplished.

View the Map

Independent Stewards Program

Oregon Natural Desert Association’s Independent Stewards program offers volunteers a self-directed option for promoting a healthy high desert in addition to our structured option of guided stewardship trips. ONDA provides participants with resources and specific assignments; they learn new skills and complete critical tasks while giving their high desert adventures an elevated purpose.

Learn More

Notes from the Field

Check in for photos and stories as volunteers complete projects that improve the health of our high desert ecosystems.

Check in on the progress

River and Stream Restoration

ONDA pays close attention to the health of desert rivers and streams because these waterways are the lifeblood of Oregon’s high desert. Add in the changing desert climate — less rain, warmer temperatures and stronger storms — and our riparian restoration work takes on greater urgency.

From planting trees along stream banks to building in-stream structures that mimic beaver dams, each action we take is part of a thoughtful restoration approach guided by the best available science.

Our aim: Cool, clear, and enduring waters that support thriving populations of fish, wildlife and people

Featured projects

Upland Restoration

Across Oregon’s desert lands, barbed wire fences once used for livestock fragment the landscape. Many of these fences no longer serve a purpose and can harm wildlife. ONDA and partners have removed hundreds of miles of fence from the land. Where barriers are needed, we convert barbed to safer smooth wire. With each fence project we complete, ONDA supports wildlife and restores natural beauty to the land.

Our aim: Giving wildlife safe passage through the landscape


Featured projects

Wildlands Monitoring

ONDA’s wildlife survey volunteers help to monitor Greater Sage-Grouse leks or other sensitive species such as raptors and mule deer on trips that are conducted in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

ONDA’s wilderness inventory volunteers collect critical information that helps ONDA document the conditions found in proposed wilderness areas. Participants collect GPS referenced photos to demonstrate that the area meets the requirements of wilderness: naturalness, opportunities for solitude and primitive recreation, and scenic and wildlife value.

Our aim: Providing high-quality data that wildlife agencies can use while managing sensitive species and  identifying wild lands that are suitable for wilderness designation

Featured projects

Trail Maintenance

ONDA’s trail maintenance work is focused on improving access to stretches of trail in the Fremont National Forest and on Steens Mountain that overlap with the Oregon Desert Trail. Working in partnership with the Forest Service and other local community groups, we are addressing critical safety concerns and promoting conservation in the region.

Our aim: Helping people connect deeply with the high desert landscape through muscle-powered recreation and gain a sense of responsibility for desert public lands

Featured projects

“There can be no purpose more enspiriting than to begin the age of restoration, reweaving the wondrous diversity of life that still surrounds us.” - E. O. Wilson