Dark Night Skies in the High Desert

Grant Tandy

fact

What defines Oregon’s high desert?

What defines Oregon’s high desert?

Bounded by the Cascade Mountains to the west and the Blue Mountains to the north, Oregon’s high desert covers approximately 24,000 square miles. Annual rainfall in the high desert varies from 5 to 14 inches. The average elevation is 4,000 feet; at 9,733 feet, the summit of Steens Mountain is the highest point in Oregon’s high desert. The terrain of the high desert was mostly formed by a series of lava flows that occurred between 30 and 10 million years ago.

Sources: The Oregon Encyclopedia; Wikipedia  

voices

Helen Harbin, ONDA Board Member

Helen Harbin, ONDA Board Member

“I connect with Oregon’s high desert through my feet, my eyes, my sense of smell, and all the things I hear. Getting out there is a whole body experience.” Supporting ONDA, Helen says, not only connects her with wild landscapes, but is also a good investment. “I felt like if I gave them $20, they might squeeze $23 out of it.”

watch

Stewardship Fence Building Timelapse

Stewardship Fence Building Timelapse

“When I started putting this story map together, I didn’t know how serious the issue of light pollution was. I do a lot of reading about other environmental issues but had heard very little about this one,” she explained. “The most interesting part of the issue is how easy it is to solve. Other types of pollution are going to take much more science and personal sacrifice to combat, but reducing light pollution is simple to do and takes little effort, but it has such a large impact on improving the lives of every creature on this planet.”

For more on what you can do in eastern Oregon or even in your community and home to help combat light pollution, view Rachel’s story map and action items at the end.

“Ultimately I hope that others like me will consider what they can do in their own communities and homes to combat light pollution. I also hope that it gives people even more perspective into how important it is for us to conserve the deserts of southeastern Oregon,” she said.

As for Rachel, eastern Oregon continues to hold a fascination. She spent last summer doing fieldwork in the Vale and Burns Bureau of Land Management districts and plans to spend another field season this year in the sagebrush steppe doing vegetation sampling. Long term, she plans to get her master’s degree in Rangeland Ecology with the goal of doing research or conservation work in Oregon’s high desert landscapes.