Restoring Lands and Waters

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

While much of our wild terrain is beautiful and pristine in many ways, human actions over time have negatively impacted some areas. 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 connects people to the special places we work to improve. We work with hundreds of volunteers, students, seasonal field technicians, and nonprofit partners to get great work done. Our trips provide plenty of natural history education and opportunities for exploration.


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  


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.”




Badgers are generally nocturnal, but, in remote areas with no human encroachment, they are routinely observed foraging during the day. They prefer open areas with grasslands, which can include parklands, farms, and treeless areas with crumbly soil and a supply of rodent prey.

Badgers are born blind, furred, and helpless. Their eyes open at four to six weeks.

Latin name: Taxidea taxus

Stewardship Trips

Oregon Natural Desert Association’s stewardship trips provide an incredible opportunity to help the wild lands and wildlife you love. Volunteer today!

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Restoring Rivers and Streams

The lifeblood of Oregon’s high desert is its waterways, and ONDA pays close attention to the health of our desert rivers and streams. The desert climate is changing and less rain, warmer temperatures, and stronger storms all give urgency to our work. Our aim? Cool, clear, and enduring waters that support fish, wildlife, and human populations.

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

Riparian Restoration

Restoring Lands

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.

We can best care for our desert lands when we’re on the ground observing changes over time. Using a systematic approach pioneered by ONDA, our staff and volunteers evaluate the natural values of our public lands. We document any misuse of these lands and work with land managers to find solutions and we assess the health of desert creatures by coordinating wildlife surveys. In fact, ONDA is so committed to supporting Oregon’s sage-grouse populations, we designed our own scientifically rigorous five-year habitat monitoring project.

We provide all of this information to the agencies that manage these lands to encourage proactive conservation and stewardship.

Upland RestorationWilderness InventoryWildlife MonitoringIndependent Stewardship

For a glimpse into life on an ONDA stewardship trip, watch this video by ONDA volunteer Christopher Schmokel.

A Collaborative Approach to Stewardship

Collaboration is a hallmark of ONDA’s stewardship work. ONDA partners with land management agencies, private landowners, and tribal entities to undertake long-term restoration projects on public and private lands in Oregon’s high desert. This approach provides significant, long-lasting benefits to the region’s land, waterways, wildlife, and communities.