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ONDA volunteers perform restoration work at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge

Fifteen Oregon Natural Desert Association volunteers pulled roughly 1.5 miles of obsolete barbed wire fence over three days at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in southeastern Oregon.
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Oct 02, 2016

Fifteen Oregon Natural Desert Association volunteers pulled roughly 1.5 miles of obsolete barbed wire fence over three days at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in southeastern Oregon.

The volunteers worked on the refuge Friday, Sept. 30 through Sunday, Oct. 2 as part of ONDA’s Stewardship Program, which for more than two decades has led trips into Oregon’s high desert to improve wildlife habitat and restore streams.

“Restoration of public lands in Oregon’s high desert has long been a critical part of ONDA’s work,” says ONDA Stewardship Director Ben Gordon. “Our volunteers are eager to come back to the Malheur Refuge year after year to help improve the land for the migratory birds and other wildlife species that rely on it. We will continue to partner with refuge staff to help with this work.”

Barbed wire fence exists throughout public lands in Oregon. But it can pose a hazard to wildlife: Birds at times get caught in it and other animals, like pronghorn antelope, injure themselves when they climb under it.

On this trip, ONDA volunteers removed a section of fence that is no longer needed in order to allow wildlife to move more easily across the refuge. They worked under warm autumn skies to roll up the spiked wire, much of which was now entangled in decades of shrub growth and grasses.

“It’s hard work, for sure,” says David Burns of Bend, who was participating in his fourth volunteer trip with ONDA. He was pulling fence out of a thicket of willows. “But Malheur is an important place. I’ve parked on the road for an hour or two with binoculars to watch how this place teems with life. I have no doubt this work will help wildlife here.”

Established in 1908, the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is considered an important stopover for mirgating birds on the Pacific Flyway. It also offers important habitat for fish and other wildlife. Many volunteers were particularly motivated to help out on the refuge in response to the illegal takeover earlier this year.  More than 1,000 people signed up to do important restoration and stewardship work in Oregon’s high desert this year as a way to give back to public lands that they cherish.

So far in 2016, 442 ONDA volunteers have planted more than 7,000 native plants and removed or retrofitted 22 miles of barbed wire fence in Oregon’s high desert. Volunteers every year perform work ranging from removing encroaching juniper trees to restoring streams. Descriptions of ONDA’s 2016 stewardship trips are available at ONDA.org/VolunteerTrips.

The Oregon Natural Desert Association is a nonprofit organization that has worked to protect, defend and restore Oregon’s high desert for nearly 30 years. We’re working to protect stunning, ecologically significant areas in the Central Oregon Backcountry, Greater Hart-Sheldon Region, John Day River Basin and Owyhee Canyonlands, and we have long been involved in conservation efforts at Steens Mountain and the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Learn more at ONDA.org.

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Oregon Natural Desert Association
50 SW Bond Street, Suite 4,
Bend, OR 97702
Tel: (541) 330-2638
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