The Malheur National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1908 to protect the area’s unique habitat, especially critical to migratory birds. Over 320 bird species and 60 mammal species are known to use the area seasonally or year round, and the 187,000 acres that comprise the Refuge provide incredibly valuable riparian and upland habitat.
Malheur National Wildlife Refuge lacks a current and accurate location and condition assessment of the boundary fence and signage. Boundary fence is important to make sure cattle are excluded from sensitive habitat and to inform visitors when they are entering refuge lands. This mapping effort will ensure the Refuge’s records are up to date and will identify areas in need of repair or modification, such as retrofitting fence to make it wildlife friendly for migrating mammals. Having an accurate map of functional and obsolete fence locations will help also help plan for future fence pull projects.
This fence mapping project is a partnership between the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Friends of Malheur Refuge and Oregon Natural Desert Association.
The purpose of this project is to collect a complete set of point and line spatial features of fence and sign location, as well as details about fence and sign condition. You will hike along a section of fence line documenting fence location and characteristics using an app on a provided tablet. You’ll document anytime the fence characteristics change as well as any boundary signs. You may be able to drive along some sections of fence.
Timing: This project needs to be done after breeding and fledging season is over – please plan to go out anytime from August 1 through the end of the year.
You will need to go to the Crane’s Nest Nature Store at the Refuge headquarters to pick up the project supplies. The Refuge headquarters are located on Sodhouse Lane, 35 miles south of Burns, about 2 hours, 45 minutes from Bend.
From Burns: Continue straight onto OR 78 East at the last stop light in town. In 1.7 miles, turn right onto OR 205 South. Continue for 24 miles on 205 and turn left onto the Narrows-Princeton Road at the RV park/cafe. Continue for 6 miles, the road turns into Sodhouse Lane, and take a left into the Refuge headquarters. Continue down the hill and park in the lot. Walk east past the Visitor’s Center and turn north to reach the Nature Store (see the photo below). The store is open from 8am to 4pm, seven days a week from March 1 through November 1.
Driving Directions from Bend
Gas is available at The Narrows and Frenchglen but is more expensive than in Burns.
Camping and Lodging
Monitoring Activities Must Conform to the Non-Impairment Standard
Monitoring activities need to meet the non-impairment standard. Thus, your use of vehicles or motorized travel for monitoring purposes must follow the same rules that the general public is required to follow. In other words, please do not drive off of any established routes and be sure to follow the guidelines from the land management agency you are working in regarding vehicle access and parking or trailhead locations.
Adjust the timing of your visit to avoid negative impacts to resources. These include:
- Avoid using primitive routes when they are wet and driving would cause rutting.
- If driving is difficult (very rocky road, rutted, wet, etc.) and/or will impact the road in a negative way, please walk the road to do your monitoring. When in doubt, walk it out.
- Avoid driving on 2-track roads during fire season. If a two-track road has tall grasses that would brush the underside of your vehicle, please do not drive, instead walk the road. Tall dry grasses can easily ignite in the dry season. If you are monitoring during fire season you will need to carry a shovel, 5 gallons of water and a fire extinguisher; these items can help you put out a small fire should you encounter one during your monitoring.
- Please report all instances of fire you encounter while monitoring.
Private Land, Fences & Gates
This project will be on public land, however, you may pass very close to private land, and in a few spots an easement allows travel on two-track roads through private property boundaries. If you encounter a “No Trespassing, Keep Out,” sign, please respect the boundary. If you decide to explore on your trip, it is your responsibility to ensure you are on public land. Many apps, like GaiaGPS, offer private land layers you can reference.
Expect to encounter other land users while conducting your monitoring project. Please respect their rights to use these lands and take care to not interfere with their operations or equipment. Other activity that may be encountered includes: livestock grazing, wildlife habitat, wild horses, cultural preservation, off-road vehicles, rock hounding, and hunting.
You will encounter fences while in the high desert. Not all fences mean private land, and not all private land is fenced. Many of the fences you will encounter are important borders for public land grazing allotments. PLEASE leave all gates that you encounter as you find them. If there are gates that are difficult to open or close, make a note and pass that information along to us.
Desert Driving and Preparedness
- Some access roads you might utilize for a monitoring project are not suitable for regular passenger cars. In addition to a high-clearance, 4WD vehicle, it is recommended that vehicles traveling in Oregon’s high desert have the following:
- At least one full-size spare tire, with car jack, lug wrench and a 1’x1’ square of plywood (or similar—something to set the jack base on in sandy soils). Practice putting on the spare tire in a nonemergency setting is very important!
- Extra key in a magnetic hide-a-key box. It’s no fun driving with a broken window because you had to break into your car to get your locked-in key.
- Extra fuel for the vehicle, extra engine coolant and engine oil.
- At least one gallon of extra drinking water.
- Jumper cables, Fix-A-Flat, tow-strap and a flashlight.
- Consider a small DC-powered air compressor.
- After a significant rain event, desert soils/primitive roads may become too supersaturated to drive on, so please look at the weather forecast before leaving home.
- Shovel and possibly a fire extinguisher. Check with local Bureau of Land Management offices, Forest Service and National Wildlife Refuge offices for fire danger levels and whether these items are required.
You will pick up the following materials at the Crane’s Nest Nature Store at Refuge headquarters
- iPad mini tablet to navigate to fence sections and record conditions. This will have the Survey123 app and GaiaGPS already on it, with the form and layers downloaded for offline use.
- Fence mapping instruction binder
- Tape measure
You may also find the following materials useful:
- Paper and pen
These materials will be in the project binder you pick up at Refuge headquarters and saved on the iPad mini. If you want to review and print or save these documents to your personal device, open the links below.
Refuge Map (fence sections in yellow)
Overview map of fences
Maps of fence sections
Project guide and mapping protocol
We’ve also set up a GaiaGPS account if you want to download the Gaia app to your phone/tablet and use it to help you locate your fence section, orient yourself while in the area, and for any navigation needs you may have on the project:
- GaiaGPS – This app works great for navigation, locating photo points, viewing satellite imagery, private and public land parcels and more. We have uploaded all the info you will need for this monitoring project, including the base maps you will use while your device is in the field and on airplane mode.
- Download the Gaia GPS app onto your device (Apple) (Android)
- Log into the GaiaGPS fence mapping account – login: firstname.lastname@example.org, password: barbedwire
- The preferred layer to view the topography is the USGS topo map.
- Press the layers icon (looks like three sheets of paper stacked), scroll down to the bottom and turn “Layered Maps” on. This will allow you to adjust your view between the three maps we have saved to the account 1) USGS Topo, 2) Private Land (so you can make sure you are public land for your project), and 3) Satellite (which can be helpful to reference). Please refer to this for more information and see our video at the bottom of the page. There are many other layer options, but these are the three we would like you to use for this project.
- Under the settings button sync your device with Gaia cloud (while you are on wifi), this will automatically start a download of the topo maps you will need during your monitoring trip. Make sure these are all downloaded before you leave wifi. It might take some time for all the tracks, waypoints, and maps to download.
- If you are getting “sync incomplete” errors and not all of the data is showing up, log out and log back in.
- Test it: turn your phone on airplane mode, then navigate to the area on the map that you downloaded, and make sure the topo map shows up.
NOTE: all data is synced between devices, any additional downloads of maps or waypoints will be shared among all monitoring Gaia accounts and other monitoring devices using GaiaGPS. Please don’t use the monitoring account for personal trips, don’t delete anything in the account, and logout when you are finished.
If you have a personal GaiaGPS account already, or use another GPS program, email Beth (email@example.com) for the gpx file of fence location that you can upload to your account/program.
When you check in at the Refuge, you’ll be directed to the segments that are still in need of mapping. The map below will be updated weekly with completely mapped segments appearing in black. If the segments are not showing up on the map below, you can use the map at the top of the page.
Before you go:
- Attend the training or watch the recording. Contact Beth or Janelle with any questions.
- Decide on your dates and contact Janelle to arrange camping and equipment pick up.
- Review the fence mapping process.
When you get to the refuge:
- Pick up the iPad, tap measure, and project binder at the Crane’s Nest Nature Store
- Review what sections have been inventoried and mark your intended section.
- Make sure to sign the visitor service agreement.
In the field:
When you get to the section of fence you are mapping, open the Survey123 app. Click Sign in with ArcGIS Online and use the saved login information to sign in. Select the Malheur NWR Fence Mapping form. Click the Collect button at the bottom of the screen.
- Your Name – Please enter your first and last name, your responses will be cached on your device after the first time. Enter every time.
- Which group are you with? Select if you are with Friends of Malheur Refuge (FOMR) or Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA) Enter every time.
- Date and Time – these fields will autofill, please don’t change them. Enter every time.
- Location – this field will autofill, please don’t change the location. Enter every time.
- Take a picture – please take a picture of the fence at this point, try to show a post and the wires and any other feature you want to capture (like a strange situation, a rock crib, etc). Take a picture every time.
- Post material – fence posts will be either steel, wood. Enter every time.
- Post condition – the condition of the fence. Enter every time.
- Good – Posts are standing and in good condition.
- Repair– Posts need to be repaired, reset if they are leaning.
- Replace – Posts are missing or damaged beyond repair and need to be replaced.
- Post spacing – Measure the number of feet between fence posts with the tape measure and enter the number. Enter every time.
- Number of wires- enter the number of fence wires. It will probably be between 3-5. Enter every time.
- Wire condition – the condition of the wire. Enter every time.
- Good – wire is taut, attached to posts, and intact.
- Repair– wire needs to be reattached to posts, or has broken and needs a splice or repair.
- Replace – Wire cannot be repaired and needs replacement.
- Is the fence wildlife friendly? Use the measuring tape to check for the distances of the wires from the ground, check if the bottom wire is smooth (not barbed) wire. You can check multiple answers. Enter every time.
- H Brace Material – Choose rock, steel pipe, or wood. Only enter if a feature is present
- H Brace condition – the condition of the h brace. Only enter if a feature is present
- Good – functional h brace
- Repair– wire needs to be reattached to posts or another repair needed
- Replace – h brace is not functional and needs to be replaced
- Gate Material – Choose wire, steel, or wood. Only enter if a feature is present
- Gate condition – the condition of the gate. Only enter if a feature is present
- Good – functional gate
- Repair– wire needs to be reattached to posts, post needs to be reset or another repair needed
- Replace – gate is not functional and needs to be replaced
- Cattle Guard condition – the condition of the cattle guard. Only enter if a feature is present
- Good – functional cattle guard
- Repair– repair is needed for cattle guard to function properly
- Replace – cattle guard is not functional and needs to be replaced
- Fence debris – if you come across fence debris like loose wire, old fences posts, please make a note. You can choose multiple answers. Only enter if a feature is present
- Boundary sign condition – Choose the condition of the boundary Only enter if a feature is present
- Good – sign is legible and functional
- Replace – sign is faded, bent or otherwise non functional
- Fence intersection – if another fence connects with the fence you are monitoring, select Yes. Only enter if a feature is present
- Other notes – Only enter if you have something to add.
When you complete all the relevant fields and are ready to submit the form click the checkmark in the lower right corner. Click Save in Outbox. This will save the completed form for you to submit when you get back to Refuge headquarters and connect to wifi.
Continue hiking until the fence characteristics – condition, materials, number of wires change or you come across a feature – h brace, gate, cattle guard, boundary sign, fence debris or intersecting fence. When you get to the next point to take a photo, you will click the Collect button again to start a new form.
ONDA launched a wildlife monitoring project this summer which invites all volunteers to collect important species observations while completing other ISP projects. This project will assist the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) with their Oregon Wildlife Conservation Project; through the smartphone app iNaturalist, ODFW has asked the public to collect wildlife observation data on amphibians, birds, mammals, and reptiles across Oregon.
If you collect wildlife observations while on this project, please only submit one report with your combined volunteer hours and data. For example, if you submit 10 wildlife observations to iNaturalist while completing this project, and taking those observations added another hour to the time you spent on the project, submit one report (as detailed on this project’s “Reporting & Data Uploads” tab) with the total time spent on both projects, and include your number of observations in the report field marked “Number of Wildlife Observations Taken.”
You are also welcome to make a wildlife monitoring trip to the high desert as a separate volunteer activity, and if you are not combining wildlife monitoring with this project, please follow all the directions for reporting your time as mentioned on the page linked below.
Please visit this password protected page for all the details on observing and recording information on northern basin and range strategy species:
Wildlife Monitoring Project
Protected: Wildlife Monitoring Project
When you get back to Refuge Headquarters and connect the iPad to wifi internet, open the Survey123 app and select the Malheur NWR Fence Mapping survey form. Click Outbox.
Click on the Send button in the bottom righthand corner. A window will pop up with a progress bar on the bottom, a cloud icon on the top and some text in the middle. It will take a while to upload the data as there is a picture associated with every point. The popup box will close and the Malheur NWR Fence Mapping form screen will show a Sent field below Collect, instead of Outbox.
Reporting (for ONDA volunteers)
Once you are finished with your project, please fill out the ONDA reporting form.
If you take multiple trips to complete a project, please submit a report for each trip you take.
Note: for those volunteers completing this project in pairs, you do not have to duplicate data on each person’s personal device. You have two options: 1) one person records all the data on their device or 2) each person takes turns recording data on their own device, as long as both sets of data reflect all observations and there is no duplicate or overlapping data. Only one of you needs to fill out the ISP reporting form, and in the field marked: “Did you complete this project with another volunteer(s)? Please enter their name(s) and ONDA staff will record the same number of volunteer hours for each of you.
To fill out the report you will need to copy and paste this unique project ID into the form:
We will be tracking this information:
- Date: The date started the project; on multi-day projects, please report the first date you were out.
- Mileage: What was the total mileage from your home to the project site and back?
- Hours: How many total hours did you spend on the project? Please include project prep time (reading this web page!), drive time both ways, post-project data/photo processing, and reporting
- Expenditures: How much money did you spend while completing the project? Please include any food, gas, lodging, etc. you spent east of the Cascades.
- Project details:
- Miles of fence monitored/repaired – the mileage of the fence section you inventoried. If you completed more than one section give the total mileage.
- Photos points taken – there is one photo per survey form so an easy way to find this is to enter the total number in the Survey123 Outbox/Sent folder.
- Number of Wildlife Observations Taken: If you participated in the Wildlife Monitoring Project as described on the “Wildlife Monitoring” tab, include the total number of observations you submitted on iNaturalist
Click here to fill out your monitoring report
We hope you will use this Independent Stewards opportunity to deepen your connection to the high desert.
Do you Instagram? Tag your photos #independentONDA and they will automatically show up on the Notes from the Field page, or email us one, and we’ll post it.
Consider spending some time doing what you love out there, your favorite activity might feel completely different in the sagebrush sea!
Here are a few ideas:
- Read about the place you are visiting, here are some suggestions to get you started:
- Atlas of Oregon by William G. Loy
- The Oregon Desert by E. R. Jackman
- Life Among the Paiutes: Their Wrongs and Claims by Sarah Winnemucca
- Thinking like a Canyon by Jerold Ramsey
- Oregon’s Dry Side by Alan D. St. John
- Legends of the Northern Paiute: as told by Wilson Wewa
- Out Here by Ursula Le Guin
- Oregon’s Great Basin Country by Denzel Ferguson
- Hole in the Sky by William Kittredge
- Netting the Sun: A Personal Geography of the Oregon Desert by Melvin R. Adams
- Child of the Steens by Eileen O’Keeffe McVicker and Barbara J. Scott
- Walking the High Desert, Encounters with Rural America along the Oregon Desert Trail by Ellen Waterston
- Paint the landscape
- Take your telescope and peer at the Milky Way
- Write a poem or description of your day
- Go for a run
- Listen to music while the sun sets
- Listen for the sounds of the desert
- Identify as many birds as you can
- Fly a kite
- Figure out how to cook your favorite meal on a camp stove
- Do some yoga
- Visit some hot springs
- Photograph the sagebrush sea
- Count the pronghorn you see
- Try to make a sagebrush sandal
- Learn about the Northern Paiute (you will probably be on their traditional homelands)
Hopefully this list gave you some good ideas!
Essentially, take some time while you are on this project to be, just be in place, and marvel at the desert around you
Should you have an emergency while on your project please call 911.
The nearest medical facility is in Burns: Harney District Hospital, 557 W Washington Street, Burns, OR 97720 (541) 573-7281
Harney County Search and Rescue – Sheriff’s office: (541) 573 – 6156
It’s always a good idea to check the weather before you head out; excessive moisture or storms can make some areas in the desert inaccessible.
It is extremely important to avoid approaching other public land users under the pretense of enforcement or engage in any potentially controversial discussions. If you witness any potential illegal activity (e.g., people who are driving off-road in a WSA), avoid approaching the illegal use or engaging in potentially confrontational discussions. Your personal safety is your highest priority. Only attempt to collect identifying information (e.g., license plates and photos) if you feel it is safe to do so.
Should you have any notable interactions or conversations, please let us know.
Water – While there may be springs or perennial water sources in the area you will be monitoring, we strongly advise you bring all water you will need for the duration of the trip with you due to the unreliable nature of many desert water sources. If you do plan on utilizing water sources on your trip, please filter or treat all water before consuming.
Because many of our Independent Steward projects have ongoing windows of opportunity to spend some time in the high desert, please take the heat into consideration as you are planning your outings. Your safety is of primary concern, and it is ok to postpone a planned visit until cooler temps prevail.
For a perspective on what this drought and fire season means for the ecological health of the high desert please read this ONDA post.
Driving in Fire Season: When the fire danger level on the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) public lands reaches IFPL 3, do not drive on any roads with tall vegetation that would brush the underside of your vehicles. All of these roads will need to be walked or biked; plan to carry a shovel, water and/or fire extinguisher with you during fire season so you can respond to any small fires you or others may inadvertently start. Even if you don’t plan to leave a paved road during your trip, please keep these items in your car. Sparks from vehicles can start fires even on the highway, and it’s possible that you can help stop a new fire with just a few shovelfuls of dirt.
Other fire restrictions include: This information is from the Lakeview Bureau of Land Management, and reflects standard protocols for public lands in eastern Oregon:
No building, maintaining, attending, or using a fire, campfire, or stove fire, including charcoal briquettes (Portable cooking stoves using liquefied or bottled fuels are allowed).
No smoking while traveling in timber, brush, or grass areas, except in vehicles on roads or while stopped in an area at least three feet in diameter that is barren or cleared of all flammable material is prohibited.
No operating a chainsaw or other equipment powered by an internal combustion engine
No possessing, discharging or using any kind of firework or other pyrotechnic device.
No welding, or operating acetylene or other torch with open flame.
Keeping tabs on fire conditions/incidents: Please consult these resources before you head out for your stewardship/monitoring project:
South Central Oregon Fire Management Partnership: good resources and information on fire conditions in the Lake County area.
Northwest Interagency Coordination Center: interactive map of current fire incidents.
- Smoke map: interactive map of smoke hazards from current fires.
Fire Dispatch Information: Click on “open incidents” to view all fire activity by date, many of these incidents are small or false alarms, so pay attention to the acre size; those fires that are resolved are marked “effective”. Clicking on “Incident Map (Google Earth)” will download a file you can open in Google Earth to see the location of each of the open incidents.
Many of us are likely fully or partially vaccinated, however please be aware that many counties in eastern Oregon have low vaccination rates. We encourage volunteers to minimize interactions while traveling and wear a mask in indoor spaces.
As part of our Independent Stewards application, all volunteers agreed to the following regarding stewardship in the time of the COVID pandemic:
Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA) is monitoring the Covid-19 pandemic including information and recommendations from the Oregon Health Authority and the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The health and safety of our volunteers and staff is our top priority and ONDA is working diligently to ensure that we have the proper controls and protocols in place. This Statement of Understanding and Assumption of Risk supplements but does not replace any of ONDA’s waivers, releases or other agreements signed by ONDA volunteers.
I understand there are risks of contracting Covid-19 which can be reduced but not eliminated and that mitigation efforts require the understanding and cooperation of everyone participating in an adventure activity as defined in the Release. I have chosen to voluntarily participate in the activity and I both assume the risk of contracting Covid-19 and agree to take measures intended to keep me and others around me safe and healthy.
While traveling to an ONDA activity, I agree to:
- Look up local guidelines and phases of reopening in locations you will be traveling. Before visiting please look up or call land managers to know what to expect, some facilities and businesses may not be open
- Only travel with members of my household
- Take enough supplies to be self-sufficient while traveling to and from the activity and minimize stops in communities to fuel and rest areas
- Keep a face mask with me and follow all state requirements for wearing when within six feet of any person outside my household and in all indoor spaces
- Carry hand sanitizer to use before and after interactions
- While participating in the activity, I agree to:
- Use hand washing and equipment sanitizing routines
- Use respiratory etiquette including stepping away from others and coughing and sneezing into my elbow or shoulder
- Not touch my face with unwashed hands
- Not share personal items like water bottles, lip balm and eating utensils
- Maintain a social distances of at least 6 feet from others whenever possible
- Wear a mask anytime I am requested to do so and at all times when I must be within 6 feet from another person
I understand there are a number of symptoms of Covid-19, some of which are: fever over 100.5*F, cough, shortness of breath, body aches, fatigue, chills, headache, sore throat, loss of sense of smell and taste, and gastrointestinal infections similar to norovirus which may cause vomiting and diarrhea. If I have any of these symptoms, I will not travel to or participate in an ONDA stewardship project.
All information provided to ONDA will be treated as confidential; however, ONDA may be required by law to disclose this information to public health organizations. I understand that this is only a summary and should not be considered a comprehensive statement regarding Covid-19.
The next step is to go!
Please refer to the Project Details tab about when this assignment can be completed. Then, make some time on your calendar in that time frame to head out to the desert. Fill out the project report in a timely manner when you return from your trip. Plan to submit a report for each trip you take; some projects can be completed over several visits.