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Protecting our most special places, forever

ONDA works to protect desert wilderness in eastern Oregon. This page contains information about the definition of wilderness, recreation in wilderness areas and leave no trace principles.

We all have that favorite place we pine for.  It’s the place where you return again and again, noticing something new every time.  It’s the place where you take your closest friends, and maybe where you dream of taking your grandchildren someday. It’s the place where you feel free to ramble and explore for miles, or sit quietly listening to the wind.

Protecting wild places in Oregon's high desert is core to ONDA’s mission.

Steens Mountain
Steens Mountain Wilderness.
Photo: Greg Burke
When your favorite place is protected as wilderness, you know that you will be able to return year after year, season after season, to the same landscape.  You will never encounter a “no trespassing” sign, because wilderness belongs to all Americans to enjoy.  In a world of change and growth, wilderness is a constant in our lives that remains there for us when we need it.

CLICK HERE for more information about visiting Wilderness Areas.

Wilderness: an American idea

While most of us have our own personal definition of wilderness, our government established the legal definition of Wilderness (with a capital "W") in 1964 with the passage of The Wilderness Act.  With the signing of this historic law, the United States became the first nation in the world to protect its lands as wilderness; roadless, undeveloped, natural and preserved forever.

On the signing of the Wilderness Act of 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson said:

"If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them something more than the miracles of technology. We must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it."

Want to learn more about the Wilderness Act?  CLICK HERE!

Wilderness Designation Matters in Oregon's High Desert!

Wilderness designation is an important tool to preserve the natural character of wild lands. ONDA works with agencies, landowners, communities, and other stakeholders to create long-lasting protections on desert lands through the use of Wilderness designation. We do this because Wilderness designation is the best way to protect large wild expanses forever.

Hampton Butte
Exploring the rugged terrain of the Hampton Butte WSA.
Photo: Tyler Roemer

In spite of the wealth of wild lands throughout Oregon, we lag behind our neighboring states in terms of the percentage of our great state that we have permanently protected as wilderness.  This is largely due to the fact that Oregon has yet to permanently protect even a fraction of its desert lands. In Oregon, approximately 2.2 million acres or nearly 7% of our forests have been designated as Wilderness certainly not enough, but at least a step in the right direction. In contrast, a meager 200,000 acres, or less than 1%, of Oregon’s high desert is currently protected as Wilderness despite the fact that this ecosystem covers nearly half the state.

Oregon is at a Wilderness Deficit Compared to Neighboring States


State Acreage

Wilderness Acreage

Percentage Wilderness

















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Oregon Natural Desert Association
50 SW Bond Street, Suite 4,
Bend, OR 97702
Tel: (541) 330-2638

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