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Restore the Crooked River with ONDA

Help restore a classic Central Oregon river

In the middle of a stark high desert, the South Fork of the Crooked River rises from the sagebrush to create an instant oasis. It winds lazily around steep ridges and past storied old homesteads before carving a broad, wild canyon, which the Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA) has proposed for wilderness protection. Encompassing 20,000 acres managed by the Bureau of Land Management, this wild stretch of the river is the historic habitat of native fish such as steelhead, and has at times supported thriving populations of redband trout. Unfortunately, past overgrazing and over-allocation of the South Fork’s water has left its aquatic residents in peril, with virtually no woody plants like willow and aspen to shade the stream, and dangerously warm water temperatures.

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Now a partnership between ONDA, private landowners and federal land managers aims to bring new life to the river. The owner of the “Jake Place,” a sizeable former homestead and cattle ranch with several miles of river frontage, has removed grazing from his property and is focused on restoring the river for wildlife habitat and recreation. To further his restoration objectives, the owner of the Jake Place has secured funding through a federal program to plant thousands of native shrubs along the river, and has hired ONDA and its robust corps of volunteers to do the work.

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Planting began last spring and has already started to transform the South Fork Crooked River at the Jake Place. On October 22 – 25 this year, dozens of volunteers will gather to undertake the most ambitious project to date: planting thousands of native plants, including aspen, currant, wild rose and bitterbrush, willow, dogwood and cottonwood. No experience is necessary, and ONDA’s expert trip leaders will train volunteers, help individuals select jobs that are right for their physical abilities, and provide all tools and materials. At night volunteers will camp under starry skies and enjoy the sound sleep that only hard work can earn. To sign up or learn more, visit: ONDA.org/southfork.

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The Oregon Natural Desert Association is a Bend-based nonprofit organization that has worked to protect, defend and restore Oregon’s high desert for nearly 30 years. ONDA conducts stewardship projects in stunning, ecologically significant areas in the Central Oregon Backcountry, John Day River Basin, Greater Hart-Sheldon Region and the Owyhee Canyonlands. Learn more at ONDA.org.

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