Conserving Your Connection

Joni Kabana

“One of my biggest personal feelings of loss for this terrible pandemic is that I had to give up these ONDA field trips.”

When ONDA had to cancel our field-based stewardship trips and community get-togethers as a result of COVID-19, we expected people to be disappointed. After all, we were, too. What surprised us and lifted our spirits was just how willing and excited our members and our broader community were to stay engaged in desert conservation this year.

“Thank you for offering these events! I miss being able to attend live talks at local venues. I always enjoy and learn from your presenters.”

After ONDA pulled together an impromptu High Desert Academy in the spring, the post-event surveys were filled with notes of gratitude. People expressed delight in taking part in #SteensWeek. After shifting to virtual formats, we saw higher attendance from events previously held in person. 1,200 people tuned in for our live-streamed Wild and Scenic Film Festival, 1,100 people attended a guidebook author’s talk about hikes in Eastern Oregon and our virtual desert photography exhibition had 1,800 pageviews in its first week.

“Even if I never again can visit the high desert country, I will send small donations when I can – just because it’s there and I want it to be there for others to love.”

As we spent time getting to know our out-of-state members, we heard from people who’d only spent a brief time in Oregon’s desert, but enough for it to make a deep impression.  Perhaps you can relate to Ryne Anderson’s experience, who told us, “My wife, dog, and I were only in the Owyhee Canyonlands for two days, but we will never forget it. On the drive to Succor Creek, we were left truly speechless and just marveled at the rugged beauty of the exposed rocky cliffs and canyons … We felt so small in the way that only a truly wild place can make you feel.” It was inspiring to hear from people who support desert conservation because they’ve been “loving it from afar.”

“The Painted Hills remind me of my grandparents. My sense of connection to these places is built on my sense of connection to people I love.”

This year, we unearthed some of the deeply personal reasons that people love the high desert and their equally personal reasons for getting involved with ONDA. We learned that one of our members joined us because he was looking to volunteer as a way to honor his late wife, who was a strong conservation advocate.  And, we learned that one of our board members is inspired to serve because she wants “to set an example for my daughter so she grows up with an appreciation of nature and the unique landscapes of her home state, and understands the importance of supporting the places and causes we care about.”

Your commitment throughout this challenging this year has given ONDA the financial stability to carry out our work, but, just as importantly, it has gives our staff the courage and the drive to keep advancing your interests in spite of many obstacles. Knowing that each acre of desert we conserve and restore matters deeply to our community, and that your love of the desert connects back to your feelings about the people they love most, makes it all the more imperative that our efforts are successful. Thank you for your deep, enthusiastic support.


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.”


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  


Sage-grouse Mating Dance

Sage-grouse Mating Dance