Steens Mountain Wilderness Rehab Project

John Alyward


Craig Terry, ONDA member and stewardship volunteer

Craig Terry, ONDA member and stewardship volunteer

“The people I have had the privilege to share time with each season keep me volunteering again and again. Who else but those ONDA staff leaders would make fresh coffee at dawn each morning or pack a watermelon all day to serve as a reward under a juniper in a steep canyon?” Craig, who grew up in northwestern Nevada, says ONDA connects him with places he loves and a mission he believes in. “My grandfather and his father put up wire fences for their ranching needs. Taking out barbed wire sort of completes a circle for me.”


Carl Axelsen, member since 1999

Carl Axelsen, member since 1999

You folks at ONDA really have your stuff together. Such a well-planned opportunity to comment, since figuring out how to connect with the gummint is off-putting. You make it work for me.


Oregon’s first desert wilderness

Oregon’s first desert wilderness

Steens Mountain: Oregon’s first desert wilderness

On October 30, 2000, Congress passed the Steens Mountain Cooperative Management and Protection Act, finishing the work that had taken ONDA and the other members of the Steens-Alvord Coalition decades  

Steens Mountain is a land of startling contrasts: dramatic u-shaped

Read More

Organizer: Anne White

Dates: October 3-6, 2022

Region: Steens

Difficulty Rating: Level 2: Moderate

Maximum Group Size: 10 participants (trip is full, but accepting volunteers for the waitlist)

About the place

The Steens Mountain region includes an area of traditional aboriginal use by the Burns Paiute Tribe. The Tribe has a small reservation in Harney County, located near Burns; the Burns Paiute People are the descendants of the Northern Paiute, or Wadatika people. The Wadatika’s homeland encompasses a territory from the Cascades east past what is now Boise, and from the Columbia south well into Nevada. Learn more about The Burns Paiute Tribe here.

Often mistaken for a chain of mountains, Steens is actually one contiguous monolith that dominates the horizon. Stretching some 30 miles wide and a mile vertical, Steens is the largest fault block mountain in Oregon, if not North America. From the high points along its long ridgeline, one can look out over the Alvord Desert to the south and gaze into deep gorges to the north.

About the stewardship work

When the Steens Act was signed into law in 2000, Burnt Car Road was a primitive, 4-wheel drive route near the Donner und Blitzen Wild and Scenic River. In 2009, twenty-eight miles of primitive routes, including Burnt Car Road, were illegally bladed. ONDA sued and eventually settled the case. As a condition of the settlement, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) was required to block off and close the portion that was bladed into the Steens Mountain Wilderness Area and to rehabilitate the route. While most of Burnt Car Road has been rehabilitated, additional reclamation is needed on the segment near the Wilderness Area boundary to prevent illegal motorized trespass in both the Blitzen River Wilderness Study Area (WSA) and the Steens Mountain Wilderness Area.

ONDA will partner with the Burns District BLM to enhance rehabilitation of Burnt Car Road and deter additional off-road motorized use. We typically head to the work site at 8 a.m. and stop work by 4 p.m. in order to leave time in the afternoon to clean-up, relax, and cook a well-deserved dinner. No previous experience is needed to attend this trip. ONDA and BLM staff will provide all instruction and necessary tools to do the job. All that is required is a love of the high desert, a big smile and a willingness to learn.

Trip Timeline

  • Monday, October 3, 5 – 7 p.m.: We will meet and camp at South Steens Campground.
  • Tuesday, October 4, 8 a.m.: After breakfast, we will carpool to the worksite and begin our first day of rehabilitation. Volunteers should plan to be out all day and be prepared for a full day of walking, kneeling and doing physical work in weather that could range from cold and wet to hot and dry.
  • Wednesday, October 5: After breakfast, we will carpool to the worksite to begin our second day of rehabilitation. Volunteers should plan to be out all day and be prepared for a full day of walking, kneeling and doing physical work in weather that could range from cold and wet to hot and dry.
  • Thursday, October 6: After breakfast we will head home.


We will be car camping  at South Steens Campground, meeting between 5-7 p.m. There are pit toilets and potable water. Since we’ll be car camping, you will be able to have all the amenities you can fit in your car. Further details describing camp and driving directions will be provided to participants in the information e-mail three weeks before the trip.


Level 2

Access to this trip is mostly roadside. Volunteers can expect to spend their day undertaking lifting, bending, and other tasks that require a moderate level of physical exertion.

Participant Responsibilities

Participants are responsible for their own food, camping gear as well as transportation to and from the trip.  Sturdy off-trail ankle-high boots and long sleeves are required for this trip. Volunteers should be prepared to be away from camp all day each of the work days. A more complete packing list will be sent out three weeks before the trip starts.

Gear Provided

ONDA will provide tools for the work and extra work gloves and eye protection. We will bring some group camping equipment along with expert leadership.


An ONDA registration application and medical form are required for this trip. Check the box next to each trip you would like to attend. You only need to fill this form out once per year.

Apply Now

You will receive a confirmation email within 2 weeks of submitting your form. The confirmation email will provide information regarding which trips you are on the “participant list” for, and which trips are full, and therefore you have been placed on the “wait list.”

Six weeks before the start of the trip, the trip leader will send out an RSVP to make sure everyone is still able to participate. Based on RSVPs, open spaces will be backfilled with people from the waitlist.

Three weeks before the trip start date, registered and confirmed participants will receive driving instructions, maps, and additional information in an email sent by the trip leader

If you have any questions in the meantime, please don’t hesitate to contact the trip leader.