Stewardship Impact 2019

ONDA’s stewardship program connects eager volunteers with meaningful projects to improve fish and wildlife habitat across eastern Oregon. Beyond the satisfaction of seeing a job well done, each volunteer gains a deeper personal connection to the wild places ONDA works so hard to protect, defend and restore.

In 2019, ONDA volunteers (424 in all!) made Oregon’s high desert wilder and healthier in myriad ways. Their remarkable progress over the course of this year raises the bar for what a group of dedicated volunteers can accomplish.


Stewardship Fence Building Timelapse

Stewardship Fence Building Timelapse


Durlin Hicock, Alice Elshoff Award winner

Durlin Hicock, Alice Elshoff Award winner

“Protecting public land is part of my spiritual being. It’s central to my identity to be in wilderness and to see it protected.” Durlin is proud to protect public lands for future generations, saying, “The highlight of my childhood was our family’s weekend outdoor trips. I look forward to my grandchildren having similar experiences outside in their lifetimes, and it wouldn’t be possible without ONDA.”




Found only in North America, where it is the most common wildcat, the bobcat takes its common name from its stubby, or “bobbed,” tail. The cats range in length from two to four feet and weigh 14 to 29 pounds. Bobcats mainly hunt rabbits and hares, but they will also eat rodents, birds, bats, and even adult deer.

Latin name: Lynx rufus fasciatus


Jim Remmington

Uplands Restoration

The rolling sagebrush-covered hills that characterize Oregon’s high desert provide critical habitat for a multitude of species, from pronghorn to sage-grouse to elk. One key aim of ONDA’s work in these uplands areas is to improve wildlife habitat by removing barriers that hinder migration. We also monitor landscape health to ensure it is providing high-quality habitat.

In 2019, volunteers removed or retrofitted dozens of miles of barbed wire fencing that crosses important migration paths and got a head start on next season’s work by mapping many more miles of fence for future removal and monitoring. Our habitat monitoring crew assessed the condition of nearly 140,000 acres of wilderness study areas.


115 Volunteers | 30 Miles of Fence Pulled | 10.5 Miles of Fence Mapped | 138,000 Acres Monitored

Many thanks to all of the volunteers who participated in our group trips and our Independent Stewards program, as well as our two incredible wildlands interns!

To learn more about ONDA’s efforts to improve wildlife habitat throughout the sagebrush steppe, visit:

Malheur National Wildlife Refuge  | John Day Fossil Beds
Hart Mountain | Steens Mountain

Phillip Ferreira

Riparian Restoration

Desert rivers and streams are the lifeblood of Oregon’s high desert. Unfortunately, more than a century of human-caused impacts have compromised this critical zone and the habitat it provides. Several native fish species have been pushed to the verge of blinking out and beaver are noticeably lacking. Through our riparian restoration work, ONDA aims to restore river systems, bring their wildlife back from the brink and bolster these waterways to help them withstand the effects of climate change.

In 2019, volunteers planted thousands of native trees. When you’re closely tracking survival rates, planting involves much more than simply digging holes and plopping plants in. Planting is a multi-step process focused on giving young plants the protection they need to become established. Volunteers built exclosures to prevent animals from munching on tender shoots. And, to keep weeds from choking out the native plants, volunteers placed hundreds of flattened cardboard boxes around young plants to serve as weed barriers – a technique that takes the place of traditional weed abatement methods like herbicides.

Volunteers also installed dozens of structures mimicking beaver dams. These beaver dam analogs help sustain the year-round availability of water which is key for streamside trees and shrubs and to keep the water cold which is so crucial to native fish.


254 Volunteers | 18,065 Trees Planted | 13 Stream Miles Improved | 16 Beaver Dam Analogs Built

To learn more about ONDA’s contributions to restoring desert rivers and streams, visit:

South Fork Crooked River | Cottonwood Canyon State Park
Pine Creek Conservation Area | Burns Paiute Tribal Properties

Sage Brown   Website

The Tribal Stewards Program

2019 marked the inaugural year of the tribal stewards program, a community‐designed project created in partnership with Northwest Youth Corps, Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, Burns Paiute Tribe and federal agencies. This initiative is designed to elevate the role of tribal members in conservation which, in turn, supports healthy, protected eastern Oregon wild lands.

Through a summer-long field seminar, Native American young adults with deep ancestral ties to eastern Oregon’s public lands joined ONDA for an introduction to conservation careers, hands‐on experience and opportunities for personal growth within a culturally relevant framework. Throughout the season, participants restored streams, uplands and trails on federal and tribal lands, and conducted field research projects, including small mammal counts and duck brood, native fish and water quality surveying.


1,725 Hours of Work | 120,000 Acres Improved | 33 Professional Mentors

Congratulations and thanks to our inaugural tribal stewards cohort!

To learn more about ONDA’s tribal stewards program, visit:

Tribal Stewards

Kim Kovacs

Maintaining stretches of the Oregon Desert Trail

The Oregon Desert Trail is an ambitious cross country route that takes explorers through scenic, wild areas in need of protection and care.

ONDA volunteers joined forces with local partners like the Paisley Youth Conservation Corps and Lakeview community members to complete loads of trail maintenance along the Oregon Desert Trail in 2019. These hard-working folks slung pulaskis, wielded hand saws, and wrangled loppers to help Oregon Desert Trail explorers travel from the scenic vistas of the Fremont National Recreation Trail to the glaciated gorges of the Steens Mountain Wilderness and beyond.


71 Volunteers | 1,653 Hours of Work | 14.5 Miles of Trail Improved

To learn more about ONDA’s work on the trails that make up the Oregon Desert Trail, visit:

Steens Mountain | Fremont National Forest