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ONDA Volunteer John Hartog Tells High Desert Stories Through Sounds, Not Words.

By John Dulzo

Oregon Natural Desert Association volunteers are as diverse as the land they work so hard to protect. Here is a story about one of our most active volunteers who brings his audio artistry to his high desert devotion. Read on and listen in.

From Surf to Turf

It all began in 1999 when John Hartog was attending Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. Through his course work he began to develop a deep passion for the sounds of nature. With fond childhood memories of the seaside at Arch Cape Oregon in mind, he borrowed audio equipment from the school lab and headed out to record the sounds of the surf. He created a CD album of those sounds to share his love of that special place.

“That first CD made a great gift for friends, and I ended up even selling a few copies,” John told us, adding, “At the time it felt like a great achievement. In hindsight, I realize I knew nothing at all about creating a realistic stereo image.”

Nevertheless, the fire was lit. Over the next few years John set out to explore the realm of natural sound, forming his own ideas. His goal was to capture recordings whose realistic depth and breadth told stories of the natural world. John’s stories let the sounds of nature speak for themselves.

An Oregon Field Guide segment about pronghorn antelope recovery at Hart Mountain that mentioned the fence removal being done by volunteers with Oregon Natural Desert Association caught John’s attention.

“Inspired, I soon joined ONDA as a member. I also started thinking that volunteering with ONDA might be a great way to scout for good sound recording locations,” he recalled. “Since then, I have been on ten or so volunteer restoration trips with ONDA and worked in all five of ONDA’s conservation regions. I’ve tried to make recordings during, or on the way to or from, all of my volunteer trips.”

It’s not easy work. John admits, “The challenge for me is always how to find the physical strength after a long day of volunteer work to take a hike with my gear out far enough away from camp, get set up and start recording.”

John has discovered his favorite places in the high desert while planting cottonwoods, hefting a sledge, rolling barbed wire, and taking part in plant surveys. The Pine Creek Conservation Area and Hart Mountain top his list as they offer long periods of uninterrupted natural quiet.

Today, with the constant barrage of information on our senses, the sounds of nature provide an important source of restorative power.

As John explained, “People purchase my recordings for a variety of reasons. Some just want some nice sounds to relax to. Some are nostalgic for a place they remember. Others have an intellectual or artistic curiosity to satisfy for whatever reason.”

We’re grateful that John has shared his incredible passion and talent with ONDA so that we may share with you. You’ll find opportunities to listen to John’s immersive “soundscapes” throughout ONDA’s new website. Treat yourself to a summer morning’s meadowlark serenade or a fall evening in an aspen grove.

Volunteering with ONDA brought John into amazing locations, and now he’s bringing those places back for all of us to experience. It’s a match made on high. The Oregon High Desert that is!


For more information about streaming online, purchasing a digital download or an album on CD, visit You can also contact John personally to inquire about additional sounds in his archive or to discuss licensing options. Reach him by email at or by phone (503) 358-3191.



Sarah Graham, Sage Sustainers Member

Sarah Graham, Sage Sustainers Member

“I contribute to ONDA monthly because it adds up to a larger annual gift than what I’d be able to comfortably afford if I were to do a simple one-time donation annually. I’m able to give more to ONDA this way and have greater impact which is important to me, and my dog Polly.”


Taylor Goforth, Sage Sustainers member

Taylor Goforth, Sage Sustainers member

“I support ONDA on a monthly basis as a way I can keep in touch with the root of my conservation ethic and allow for their strong advocacy work to keep going. I count on them!”


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.”