Planting Hope

Author: Gena Goodman-Campbell  |  Published: April 27, 2022  |  Category: Look Back

ONDA’s stewardship director shares a report from a special desert stewardship trip where ONDA celebrated it’s 35th anniversary and put a record number of native plants into the ground. To get Notes from Field delivered to your inbox monthly, subscribe to ONDA’s e-newsletter

As I drove out to ONDA’s 35th anniversary stewardship trip on the South Fork Crooked River, I realized that in 35 years my daughter, who was chatting away behind me in the backseat, will be the same age that I am now.

What will Oregon’s high desert look like then?

Seeing the progress ONDA’s stewardship program is making on the ground, I am filled with hope that Oregon’s high desert will be much more healthy and resilient in the years to come.

Here are five of the many highlights from this stewardship trip:


Central Oregon’s “Backyard Wilderness”

Central Oregon’s “Backyard Wilderness”

Our quest to protect the Oregon Badlands

Located just 15 miles east of Bend, Oregon Badlands is a 30,000-acre wilderness area filled with fascinating lava flows and ancient juniper trees Arriving in the Badlands, so named for its rugged and harsh terrain, can feel like stepping

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Young Desert Horned Lizard

Young Desert Horned Lizard

In the summer these lizards begin foraging for food as soon as their body temperature rises as the heat of the day increases. They feed on slow-moving, ground-dwelling insects. In the fall they hibernate by burying themselves in the sand.

Latin name: Phrysonoma platyrhinos




The Oregon Swallowtail butterfly is the official state insect of Oregon and a true native of the Pacific Northwest. The Swallowtail can be seen in the lower sagebrush canyons of the Columbia River and its tributaries, including the Snake River drainage area.  Source: State Symbols USA

Latin name: Papilio oregonius

5,000 native plants in the ground

A new record for the most trees ever planted on an ONDA volunteer trip!

This achievement is the result of more than a decade of innovating more efficient and effective planting techniques. The resulting improvements to watershed health have the potential to be transformative for the South Fork Crooked River, which has been degraded by a century of livestock grazing and other agricultural uses.

A better home for beaver, and other wildlife

The thousands of trees planted by volunteers will sustain future generations of beaver on the South Fork Crooked River. Numerous studies have linked beaver activity on a stream to a host of ecological benefits, including cooler water temps, greater resiliency to wildfire and even an improved capacity of the landscape to capture and store carbon.

A bit of snowfall, and a stack of postcards

ONDA’s volunteers are as eager to advocate for land and water protection as they are to plant trees.

Gathered around the campfire to warm up as a light snow fell, this crew handwrote postcards to Senators Wyden and Merkley, encouraging them to push forward with protecting the South Fork Crooked as a Wild and Scenic River via the River Democracy Act.

A delicious potluck, complete with cake

After two years in our “bubbles,” this chance to break bread with others was truly joyous. And, it simply wouldn’t be an anniversary celebration without a sheet cake.

Sharing ONDA’s work with my daughter

This was my personal highlight, and it made this trip especially meaningful for me.

I showed her willows that I had planted on past ONDA trips, and we marveled at how some of the oldest trees are starting to send up shoots, spreading and expanding year by year.

On the long car ride home, just when I thought she had finally nodded off, I heard her little voice asking, “Mama, when can we go back to check on the plants?"

Next spring, I told her, and every year after that.

I truly can not wait to see how this landscape transforms thanks to your support and all the hard work of ONDA’s incredible volunteers.

To learn more about ONDA’s long-term investment in restoring this river, head to our Featured Project: South Fork Crooked River page. And, you can enjoy a few more photos from this trip in this Flickr album.

A special thank you to the donors that made this project possible: The Trout and Salmon Foundation, US Fish and Wildlife Service, East Cascade Audubon Society, Oregon Conservation and Recreation Fund, and thousands of ONDA members!