Report from Sutton Mountain

May 8, 2014


DSC_0112The High Desert Committee led a trip to the Sutton Mountain wilderness study area at the end of April. Located near Mitchell, Oregon and adjacent to the Painted Hills National Monument, Sutton Mountain provides a birds-eye view of the colorful striations of the Painted Hills, created by wind, time and geologic activity.

After a hike through Black Canyon to gain the upper plateau, the group was treated to blooming hedgehog cacti along the rim. Lunch was spent enjoying the stunning vistas and basking in the sun, then Borden Beck led the climb down along what was surely a mountain goat trail.

Sierra Club outings allow you to explore and enjoy areas of Oregon that you may or may not be familiar with. Experienced volunteer leaders share their favorite areas of Oregon and talk about efforts to protect these areas so that future generations can enjoy these wild areas as we see them now.

Click here to discover a Sierra Club outing in your area.

Click here to read more about the Oregon Chapter’s High Desert Committee and how you can get involved.

Join us in the High Desert this Summer!

April 3, 2014
Anderson Crossing

Anderson Crossing, Oregon High Desert

Southeastern Oregon has some of the most wild and pristine landscapes in the continental United States. Stunning rock formations, endless vistas and wild lands are waiting to be explored, most without developed trails to mark human existence.

If you are the adventurous type, consider joining the Sierra Club’s High Desert Committee on a trip to Oregon’s High Desert this summer. We have trips planned to:
  • Sutton Mountain, in the John Day River area
  • Leslie Gulch, in the Owyhee Canyonlands
  • Anderson Crossing, in the Owyhee Canyonlands
  • Steens Mountain
We have trips for all levels of hikers, with special trips for camera buffs and those who are service-minded. For more informations, visit our website at

High Desert Adventures 2013!

April 8, 2013

UntitledThe High Desert Committee will be leading two trips to the desert this summer. Descriptions and contacts follow. We also think there is a probability we will offer a fall multi-day trip as well but have not finalized plans. Visit our website for updates.

Owyhee Rendezvous 
Jun 26 – 30, 2013

Calling all desert enthusiasts! We are once again hosting an Owyhee Rendezvous–a time and a place to meet together and explore, enjoy, and learn how to protect the Owyhee Canyonlands area. The landscape of our current campaign, the Owyhee Canyonlands, is vast and diverse. We will form a base camp at Leslie Gulch, and from there lead daily hikes. Day hikes will visit areas in and around Leslie Gulch, Three Forks, Jordan Craters, Painted Gulch and more. We also hope to organize a day of service with the BLM. You won’t want to miss this opportunity to meet up with old and new friends in a stunningly beautiful place.To register, contact: Bill Hart, 503-236-8058,

Steens Mountain Fence Pull
Jul 26 – 31, 2013

Want to help add a bit more “wild” to the Steens Mountain wilderness? Join us in removing the visual blight of old fencing that’s also a danger to hikers and wildlife. This year we will backpack in to our work site. No experience necessary! We will have down time to explore the area. We will even feed you dinner. The work is strenuous and the climate hot, but you’ll walk away with a feeling of accomplishment! To register, contact: Harry Anderton, 503-241-7035,

Oregon’s Owyhees: Deserving of Permanent Protection

August 23, 2012

Sierra Club volunteers exploring the Owyhee Canyonlands of Southeast Oregon.

In a recent post on the Sierra Club’s national ‘Lay of the Land’ blog, Jill Workman, an Oregon Chapter Sierra Club leader and member of the Sierra Club’s Resilient Habitats Leadership Team, wrote in support of a new National Monument designation to protect Oregon’s rugged and remote Owyhee Canyonlands.

We envision a national monument that will permanently protect the Owyhee Canyonlands from the landscape scale destruction, miles of roads, and air and water pollution that accompany mining activities; give the Bureau of Lands Management tools to better combat off-road vehicle abuse and control noxious weeds; and bring much needed resources to the area while assuring that this remote, desert region maintains its ecological integrity. 

A national monument proclamation for the Owyhee Canyonlands would allow the traditional uses of the land–including camping, hiking, hunting, fishing, birding and rafting–to continue. It may also help restore economic prosperity to an economically-challenged area, as has occurred in communities adjacent to Cascade Siskiyou, Vermillion Cliffs, and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monuments.

Read the full post here.

Permanent protection for the Owyhee Canyonlands is one of the Sierra Club’s priorities in Oregon. You can help this effort by getting involved with the Oregon Chapter Sierra Club’s High Desert Committee.

Join us for Desert Conference XXIV!

July 12, 2012
photo by Brian S. Pasko

Oregon Chapter High Desert Committee Chair Borden Beck surveys the lava flows at Jordan Crater in the Owyhee Canyonlands of southeast Oregon.

Desert Conference XXIV
September 20-22, 2012
Bend, Oregon

After a year hiatus, we are excited to announce the return of The Desert Conference this September. The Sierra Club High Desert Committee has had a long history of participating in and sponsoring this conference, and this year we will see a new format to the event (Thurs eve thru Sat eve and you are on your own for food and lodging).

As in past years there will be a number of panel sessions focused on a wide variety of topics ranging from sage grouse and juniper management, to landscape protection campaigns and energy development, and much more. On Saturday afternoon there will be a variety of field trips to nearby wild areas such as the Badlands and the Deschutes Canyon.

This year the conference will be held in Bend and will be kicked off with the Wild and Scenic Film Festival Thursday evening. Friday will include a reading by Ursula K. Le Guin followed by keynote speaker Kathleen Dean Moore (philosophy professor and author) with music by Truck Stop Gravy to finish the evening. The whole event is a great way to network with other desert activists and learn more about desert conservation in Oregon and have some fun along the way.

The conference is being organized by the Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA) with sponsorship from the Sierra Club and the PEW Charitable Trusts. For more information, a draft agenda, and registration, please go to:

Join us for the Owyhee Rendezvous June 20-24! (Free Event!)

June 6, 2012

It’s time to clean off the summer gear and prepare for the Owyhee Rendevouz!

The Owyhee is a long drive into the morning sun, venturing deep into southeastern Oregon’s Malheur County. Our destination is along the eastern edge of Lake Owyhee or as some folks call it, the Owyhee Reservoir.

Slocum Campground, at the end of Leslie Gulch, will serve as base camp for a 5-day, June 20-24, desert rendezvous hosted by the Sierra Club’s Oregon Chapter High Desert Committee.

The Owyhee rendezvous is our opportunity to show folks the wonders, solitude and beauty that lie in the southern portion of our state. There are many spectacular hikes from base camp that capture the geologic diversity of the landscape. You’ll find wildlife but you’ll have to move slowly. There are guided hikes wandering along old roads and winding trails dotted with wildflowers or a dancing stream. Meanwhile the daylight is constantly changing as it reflects off the stone monoliths, which are scattered across the landscape.

Amazing desert mornings where you can watch the sun come over the horizon as you crawl out of your tent. The air is brisk, but full of energy. And within a few minutes the sun is up and the air is getting warmer. Welcome to the Owyhee!

Join us!
Sierra Club High Desert Committee
Owyhee Rendezvous
June 20 – 24, 2012

For more information, contact: Bill Hart at

American Wilderness and National Parks Under Attack in Congress

April 18, 2012

What could be more American than Wilderness and National Parks?

Sadly, anti-environmental members of Congress are bent on dismantling protections for America’s Wilderness areas and National Parks, including for ‘national security’ along our borders (H.R. 1505 and S. 803), and to provide motorized access for those unwilling to abide by America’s Wilderness ethic of ‘leave no trace’ (H.R. 4089).

Please click here to take action to stop H.R. 1505/S.803 (details below)!

On April 17, the US House passed H.R. 4089, a bill with the laudable intention of providing continued recreational hunting and fishing opportunities on our federal public lands. However, a key section would allow motorized access, road construction, and even logging in protected Wilderness areas, activities that would destroy the pristine characteristics of designated Wilderness Areas. An amendment to the bill that would have clearly prevented oil and gas development, mining, logging and motorized activity in protected Wilderness failed, while another amendment passed that requires the President to receive approval from a state’s Governor and legislature before designating any new National Monuments under the Antiquities Act, which has allowed Presidents to designate National Monuments for over a century.

Unfortunately, two Oregon Democrats, Peter DeFazio and Kurt Schrader, joined House Republicans in voting to pass H.R. 4089.

Meanwhile, H.R. 1505 could come up for a House floor vote soon, and Congressmen DeFazio and Schrader in particular, clearly need to hear from Oregonians about this bill’s threat to Wilderness, National Parks, and wildlife. Simply put, H.R. 1505 would suspend environmental protection laws along the United States’ northern and southern borders in the name of national security. Anti-immigration forces are using the issue to undermine protected places like Olympic and Glacier National Parks, and Wilderness areas along the US borders with Canada and Mexico.

The so-called National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act (H.R. 1505), would permanently exempt border enforcement activities from more than 30 federal protection laws within 100 miles of the U.S. borders with Canada and Mexico.

Similarly, in the US Senate, Republican Arizona Senators John McCain and Jon Kyl have introduced the Border Security Enforcement Act of 2011 (S. 803), which would effectively give the Department of Homeland Security veto power over environmental protections on public lands within 150 miles of the border with Mexico.

Such a ham-handed approach to a detailed and complex issue such as balancing border enforcement with environmental protection may seem unprecedented, but it isn’t.

In 2008, the Department of Homeland Security used the Real ID Act to waive 36 laws. This allowed the department to construct barriers that now stretch 650 miles across the U.S.-Mexico border.

The Sierra Club Borderlands Team is working to ensure that the area along the border that splits the Pacific Northwest does not fall to the same fate of our southern borderlands.

Please take action today to urge Congress to vote ‘no’ on H.R. 1505 and S. 803!