Jim Davis Website
A Wildlife Stronghold
Imagine a place where more than 350 species of wildlife, from stately bighorn sheep to tiny pygmy rabbits, are found in an abundance you’d expect from remote Alaska or Yellowstone. This is the Greater Hart-Sheldon.
The public land of the Greater Hart-Sheldon spans from the Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge in southeastern Oregon to the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge in northern Nevada. These refuges are collectively managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as the Sheldon-Hart Mountain National Wildlife Refuge Complex. Between these two refuges, you’ll find other scenic public lands and vital wildlife habitat administered by the Bureau of Land Management, including Beatys Butte, Hawk Mountain, and the Warner Valley.
This vast, remote, and wildlife-rich region is one of the largest intact swaths of sagebrush steppe remaining in the West. It has been the focus of decades of scientific study and is recognized as one of the six most critical areas for the long-term survival of the greater sage-grouse.
Where the Antelope Roam
Pronghorn, the fastest land mammal in North America, race across this region, as they migrate from one refuge to the other.
Both Sheldon and Hart Mountain refuges were initially established in the 1930s to protect the pronghorn antelope and the vast lands that support the species. Each refuge provides important habitats for pronghorn during different times of the year.
By collaring pronghorn, scientists identified critical pronghorn migrations routes and high-use areas in the region. The study found that in addition to annually migrating between the two refuges, the animals, in winter, rely heavily on Beatys Butte, an area of unprotected Bureau of Land Management land in between the two refuges.
A Cultural Repository
The past is present in Greater Hart-Sheldon. The area preserves one of the richest cultural records in North America due to the number and age of sites known to have been utilized by people for thousands of years. Recent efforts to date prehistoric sites in the Hart-Sheldon region and across eastern Oregon’s high desert have documented some of the oldest known evidence of human habitation in North America.
Petroglyphs are often found among the region’s large boulders and rock gardens. These artistic depictions lead viewers to wonder who created these carvings, and why. The visual history captured in rock art helps people today understand and appreciate how past peoples lived in this stunning part of Oregon for thousands of years.
Our Favorite Places in the Greater Hart-Sheldon
Oregon Natural Desert Association works closely with land managers to protect the region’s most outstanding public land and promote ecosystem health. In the face of development pressures, we’re advocating for the protection of essential public lands between the two refuges, preserving critical wildlife habitat, cultural resources, and the natural values of the area people have come to know and love.
For more than 20 years, ONDA has organized restoration projects to remove unneeded barbed-wire fence from Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge. This effort, in coordination with other groups, took 300 miles of fence off the refuge, taking down barriers for pronghorn and other wildlife, and allowing them to roam freely across this landscape.
And, to grow public participation on our conservation efforts, ONDA is raising the profile of this spectacular, but little-known region through films and photography and by providing informational resources, like our Visitors Guide.