Recently, a group of 10 desert enthusiasts, led by Sierra Club High Desert Committee members, visited the Hart Mountain Antelope Refuge in south-central Oregon. Hart Mountain is a conservation success story, and it was exciting to see how this area has come back to ecological health since grazing was removed from the refuge nearly twenty years ago and management practices changed. At that time, the antelope population was struggling due to the damage done to the landscape by grazing and fire suppression. Once cattle were removed and prescribed burns started, the landscape, and antelope numbers, have returned to healthy levels. The fires and removing the cattle allowed forbes, herbaceous plants that the antelope depend on, to rejuvenate. This was evident on our hikes, as we were treated to vast stretches of wildflowers, including a hilltop swathed in fragrant lupine. We felt like Dorothy in a poppy field in Oz!
Please help the Sierra Club protect other fragile high desert ecosystems in Oregon. The High Desert Committee currently is working on a campaign to permanently protect 2.5 million acres of wilderness-quality lands in the Owyhee Canyonlands, which is in the far southeast corner of Oregon. Please take a minute to sign the petition at http://wildowyhee.org/act/sign-the-petition_sierra_club, join us on an outing (see our offerings at http://oregon2.sierraclub.org/chapter/high-desert-outings) or attend one of our monthly meetings to see what we are working on. The High Desert Committee meets on the first Wednesday of every month at 6:30 pm for a potluck, with the meeting starting at 7:00 pm.