Author: Joanna Zhang | Published: January 18, 2023
Oregon’s high desert is teeming with a diversity of wildlife, including species that are found nowhere else on the planet.
Living in high desert sagebrush steppe, with all its variations in temperature and precipitation, requires unique adaptations of its inhabitants. And yet, a surprising diversity of plants and animals make their home in Oregon’s Sagebrush Sea, including a batch of species that literally would not exist if not for these sagebrush grasslands. Known as “sagebrush obligates,” they include a number of species you probably know. Pygmy rabbit, North America’s smallest rabbit, dig their burrows in dense stands of sagebrush and feed primarily on the plant. Birds such as sagebrush sparrow, Brewer’s sparrow and sage thrasher build their nests in or under sagebrush, while the West’s iconic greater sage-grouse depend on sagebrush throughout the year.
The next two years will offer an unprecedented opportunity to ensure a future for these magnificent fish, wildlife and plants and the habitats they need in Oregon’s outback. Both the federal government and the state of Oregon are in the midst of expansive new planning processes to identify key wildlife habitats and migration corridors and preserve sagebrush steppe in the face of climate change and other threats. ONDA will leap into these processes, advocating for wildlife protections along with improved land management, preservation of wilderness, provision of recreational opportunities and other values. We look forward to partnering with ONDA’s community of wildlife lovers and desert advocates to provide the strongest protections possible in the final plans.
A few representative key species will drive planning across the entire high desert over the next couple of years. Read on to learn more about these ambassadors of the Sagebrush Sea and how ONDA’s strategic efforts will protect them and other wildlife.