Sheepshead Mountains WSA Group Route Inventory

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Oregon’s first desert wilderness

Oregon’s first desert wilderness

Steens Mountain: Oregon’s first desert wilderness

On October 30, 2000, Congress passed the Steens Mountain Cooperative Management and Protection Act, finishing the work that had taken ONDA and the other members of the Steens-Alvord Coalition decades  

Steens Mountain is a land of startling contrasts: dramatic u-shaped

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voices

Aaron Tani, Sage Society Member

Aaron Tani, Sage Society Member

“It feels good to support ONDA on a monthly basis, because I know they never stop supporting our public lands. ONDA works to help make our lands a better place for the future, and I feel like I’m a part of that every month with my support.”

voices

Nate Wilson-Traisman, member since 2019

Nate Wilson-Traisman, member since 2019

“My greatest hope is that Oregon’s desert continues to gain public lands protections, and is guarded from unsustainable development, so that future generations may benefit from all the region has to offer.

I felt inspired by trips to Oregon’s high desert, and was actively searching for ways to contribute to the protection of these wild places. ONDA stood out as a leader in this respect, and when I’ve had money to contribute, ONDA has been a clear choice.”

Organizer: Stewardship Team

Project Timeline: 9/1/2023 through 11/1/2023

Region: Steens Mountain

Difficulty Rating: Level 3: Challenging

Volunteers Needed: 2 volunteers or pairs of volunteers

About the place

Steens Mountain lies just to the west of this project area (or Tse Tse Ede or “Cold, Cold Mountain” in the Northern Paiute language) and includes an area of traditional aboriginal use by the Burns Paiute Tribe. The Tribe has a small reservation in Harney County, located near Burns; the Burns Paiute People are the descendants of the Northern Paiute, or Wadatika people. The Wadatika’s homeland encompasses a territory from the Cascades east past what is now Boise, and from the Columbia south well into Nevada. Learn more about The Burns Paiute Tribe here.

The Sheepshead Mountains Group contains a variety of topographic features. The eastern and southern portions of the area include a plateau with elevation mostly above 5,000 feet. The eastern edge of this plateau is characterized by rolling hills and broad, gentle alluvial fans which slope down to the 4,000-foot level. On the southern edge of the plateau, the descent to the lower elevations is much more abrupt and is typified by steep, south-facing ridgelines and a few deeply-cut canyons.

About the project

The Sheepshead Mountain Group contains six different Wilderness Study Areas (WSAs) separated by routes that the Bureau of Land Management recommended for closure 30 years ago, but the roads remain open. In this project, ONDA volunteers will survey the routes to see if any of them no longer qualify as roads for wilderness inventory purposes. If so, we could petition the Bureau to combine and reclassify some of the group as larger WSAs.

This is a photo monitoring project:

The 2 tasks outlined will include driving access roads and documenting them with photographs if the route is not maintained, and walking and documenting several identified routes.

Timing

We estimate 2-3 days (not including travel time) for each task and you will need to be prepared for rough driving with a high-clearance 4WD vehicle. Each task needs to be monitored this year when conditions allow. Late fall (mid-September through October) after fire season is over could be a good weather window.

Difficulty

Level 3

This project is split into two tasks, each task has several shorter segments and requires about 11 miles of total hiking round trip. The hiking is along old routes which may be uneven and hard to follow.

Registration

An ONDA registration application and medical form are required for this project. You will also have the option to volunteer for other projects that become available throughout the year.

Project Details

All the information you will need to know about this independent project will be emailed to you after your registration is complete. Each project page has extensive information about access, technology, tools, maps and more. Please be prepared to spend 1-2 hours reviewing this information prior to heading out on your project, the good news is that time spent reviewing and preparing for your trip all counts towards your volunteer hours.

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