Ten Superlative Volunteers

Michael O'Casey

Oregon’s high desert is a unique place, full of magic and wonder. The same could be said of those people who give their time and attention so generously to its care.

Today, we’d like to introduce you to ten conservation heroes you could meet at an ONDA event or on a stewardship trip and share a little bit about what makes each one such a uniquely valuable member of this desert conservation community.




Bitteroot blooms on north-facing cliffs in western North America.

The Paiute name for bitteroot is kangedya. Traditional Native American uses of the plant included eating the roots, mixed with berries and meat, and using the roots to treat sore throats.



Cottonwood Canyon Riparian Soundscape

Cottonwood Canyon Riparian Soundscape


Terry Butler, 2018 Volunteer of the Year

Terry Butler, 2018 Volunteer of the Year

“If I have to pick a favorite place in Oregon’s high desert, it would be Sutton Mountain, but I’m excited about all of the Wilderness Study Areas,” says Terry, adding, “Each is a gem to explore, and I hope they all get protection someday… I love the scale of the physical beauty of the desert.”

Most Invigorated by Desert Hazards

One perk of working at the Denny Jones Ranch is the chance to visit Juntura Hot Springs. You just have to cross the thigh-high Malheur River to get to the islands where the springs are. Despite having a bum knee, Phyllis Pengelly braved the crossing, reached the far shore and exclaimed, “This is the most fun I’ve ever had!”

Most Adaptable

From database entry to phone calls to cutting lengths of rope to create new bucket handles, Mary McCord fields literally anything we throw her way. In 2019, she came into ONDA’s Bend office 47 weeks out of the year, capably taking on any and all projects to support ONDA’s outreach, conservation and stewardship work.

Best Storytellers

Best Storytellers

John Bauman and Jenny Zimmerman are fabulous story-tellers. They have been everywhere and done everything. Having this couple on a trip is so much fun as they will paint a picture of adventures you will probably never have, but wish you did!

Most Likely to Be Mistaken for MacGyver

Terry Lowell‘s mechanical mind and problem-solving skills come in handy whenever a volunteer project is in need of a hand-fashioned tool to make getting work done more efficient. Whether it’s to modify digging implements or make a field repair on a broken tool, Terry’s contributions ensure that projects stay on track and work days finish in time to enjoy a cold beer before the sun sets.

Most Excited About All Things Trails

Renee Patrick

Most Excited About All Things Trails

Patti Koski and Pat Moen are forever planning their next backpacking adventure. As trip leader Renee Patrick put it, “I get excited when I see they are coming on a trip with me because I know I’ll get to hear about hiking in Copper Canyon, on the PCT, in Nepal, or who knows where. These two love all things trails and, since I am the same, we can really geek out together.”

Most Industrious

If an ONDA event evokes the sights and scents of the high desert, it’s thanks to Mary Powell, aka the Martha Stewart of the sagebrush steppe. Her hand-crafted creations, made up of all things desert – sage, old barbed wire, rabbitbrush, you name it – have been featured at ONDA events and trips throughout the state.

Best Boogiers

What we learned at ONDA’s Annual General Meeting: Cindy Luxhoj and David Legg can dance! This duo has danced together all over the world and loves to spread that infectious joy to others around them, especially by inviting friends who are new to ONDA to join them at AGM and get down on the dance floor.


Truth be told, our list of superlative volunteers is pretty long. Stay tuned for part two in this series!