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!

Stunning Photographs, Free Event! This Tuesday!

November 1, 2011

Join the Oregon Sierra Club’s High Desert Committee
this Tuesday, November 8th
for a free event about


For years, Sierra Club volunteers across the country have partnered with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) to protect the remaining wild desert lands of southern Utah.  Next week, the Oregon Chapter’s High Desert Committee is hosting a free special event with SUWA —  an evening of photos and information about efforts to protect Utah’s Canyonlands and Red Rock country.

WHAT: An Evening of Photographs and information about efforts to protect wild areas in Southern Utah
WHY: * Stunning images of unprotected areas in Utah* Hear about Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance’s  Greater Canyonlands Campaign and the latest developments affecting America’s Red Rock Wilderness

* You will NOT be asked for money!

WHEN: THIS Tuesday, November 8th
7:30 to 9 p.m.
WHERE: Sierra Club Office in Portland
1821 SE Ankeny Street, Portland OR 97214

Brooke Williams is on staff with SUWA and has a long history with efforts to protect wilderness in Utah. He will be presenting a slide show of stunning images of the currently unprotected areas in Utah most of us are largely unfamiliar with. This is not a National Park photo tour but will instead focus on those areas with wilderness values that are more off the beaten path. He will also focus on some of the threats to these areas and SUWA’s current campaign to protect them.

This event is not a fundraiser (it’s FREE) but rather is intended to help build support for desert wilderness protection and connect people with like-minded interests.

Many of the issues and struggles to protect wildlands in Utah are mirrored by our own challenges to protect the vast Owyhee Canyonlands of SE Oregon. As Sierra Club members we should have an interest in both efforts. Some snacks and libations will be available.

Please RSVP if possible to

If you cannot attend, click here to learn more about the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.

Protecting the Owyhee Canyonlands

September 14, 2011

By: Heidi Dahlin, Conservation Chair

The Owyhee Canyonlands fall in three states: Idaho, Oregon, and Nevada (Image: Sierra Club/Mike McCurry) Jagged rock formations, sagebrush steppe, and strikingly colored desert characterize the Owyhee Canyonlands. Located in the southeast corner of Oregon, the area provides an outdoor experience unlike any other in the state. The whitewater of the Owyhee River system draws river runners from across the country and the remote canyons provide homes for some of the nation’s largest herds of bighorn sheep. The Owyhee Canyonlands are a national treasure, and truly one of the most remote and beautiful places in the United States. . .

Click here to read the rest of Heidi’s piece on “Lay of the Land,” the national Sierra Club’s public lands and wildlife blog!

“Owyhee Rendezvous” Recruits New Advocates for Desert Protection

July 6, 2011

By Heidi Dahlin, Oregon Chapter Conservation Chair

Nearly 40 people attended the Sierra Club's "Owyhee Rendevous" and were inspired by the beauty of eastern Oregon's Owyhee Canyonlands.

Amid the stunning backdrop of red rock volcanic formations, 40 desert enthusiasts met up last weekend for the 2011 Oregon Chapter Sierra Club Owyhee Rendezvous in Leslie Gulch, near Jordan Valley and part of the Owyhee Canyonlands. A common statement of attendees was “I’ve lived in Oregon my whole life, and I never knew something like this was in Oregon!” What they were referring to were soaring spires, enormous cathedrals and intricate honeycomb rock formations in hues of red, orange, yellow, green and purple, jutting up from the landscape along  narrow gulches, reminiscent of the more well-known rock formations of Utah and Arizona.

This spectacular landscape is part of the Owyhee Canyonlands, an area of approximately 2 million acres for which the Oregon Chapter is working to gain permanent protection. The collection of wilderness study areas and wildlands, under the management of the Bureau of Land Management, is one of the most remote areas in the United States and is important habitat for the Greater Sage Grouse, a species declining in numbers due to habitat loss, as well as pronghorn antelope, golden eagles and pygmy rabbits.

The Owyhee Rendezvous was held at the remote and beautiful Leslie Gulch in Malheur County, Oregon.

What can you do to help protect this area? 

• Sign up to be informed on high desert issues through our list-serve by e-mailing

• Visit our website ( to learn more about the Owyhee Canyonlands campaign.

• Volunteer with the High Desert Committee. Our meetings are the first Wednesday of every month at 7 p.m. in the chapter office (1821 SE Ankeny St, Portland, Oregon)

• Write Senator Merkley and ask him to work to permanently protect the Owyhee Canyonlands for both its wild and scenic character and its value as critical habitat for sage grouse. It remains as some of the best and last untrammeled sagebrush steppe in the United States. Contact info: Senator Jeff Merkley, 313 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C., 20510

High Desert Adventures 2011!

February 25, 2011

West Little Owyhee

The Oregon Chapter’s High Desert Committee has announced its schedule of trips for the 2011 season!

Please feel free to contact trip leaders with inquiries about trips. You can also learn more about wilderness opportunities in the John Day Basin at our Spring Event on March 17th at 6:30pm at the Sierra Club office in Portland.  We would also encourage you to consider attending our Owyhee Rendezvous in late June as a great opportunity to see this far flung corner of Oregon.  More information about both of these opportunities can be found below!

HDC Spring Event

When: March 17, Thursday 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm
Where: Oregon Chapter Office, 1821 SE Ankeny, Portland

Come explore the beauty of the John Day River Basin and Owyhee Canyonlands from the comfort of a chair! We will feature the Sutton Mountain Wilderness Study Area, as well as the surrounding Painted Hills. This event is held in conjunction with our Columbia (Portland area) Group’s ” Third Thursday” program,  and we will have a potluck as well as provide snacks and beverages. Join the High Desert Committee for food, fun and fellowship. Food and mingling starts at 6:30, presentation at 7pm.

Fort Rock/Christmas Lake Basins

When: May 13, 2011 to May 15, 2011
Where: Fort Rock/Christmas Lake Basins

We will visit the diverse volcanic geology of the landscape east of Fort Rock in Central Oregon SE of Bend. There are three wilderness study areas that are largely ancient lava flows to explore as well as places such as Devils Garden, Derrick Cave, Crack in the Ground, Hole in the Ground, Fossil Lake, the Lost Forest, and of course Fort Rock itself. This trip provides a great introduction to Oregon’s High Desert with more to do and see than time will allow. The trip will consist of a longer and shorter hikes but although the terrain is ruggedat times, the hiking is largely moderate in nature.

To register for this trip: Contact: Borden Beck, 503-706-3634,

Sierra Club volunteers in the wild Owyhee Canyonlands proposed National Monument in southeast Oregon.

Owyhee Rendezvous 2011

When: June 25, 2011 to June 29, 2011
Where: Owyhee Canyonlands 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 focus of our current campaign, the Owyhee Canyonlands are vast and diverse. We will form a base camp at Leslie Gulch, and from there lead daily hikes. Areas to be visited may include the Honeycombs, Juniper Gulch, Timber Gulch, Three Forks, Jordan Craters and more. This is our primary focus for trips this year. You won’t want to miss this opportunity to meet up with old and new friends in a stunningly beautiful place. Formal registration materials will available by April 1st but you may get information or sign up for registration materials by contacting Harry Anderton now.

For information: contact: Harry Anderton, 503-241-7035,

Steens Mountain: Fence Pull

When: July 29, 2011 to August 3, 2011
Where: Steens Mountain

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. 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,

Anderson Crossing – West Little Owyhee

When: August 10, 2011 to August 14, 2011
Where: Anderson Crossing – West Little Owyhee

Anderson Crossing is along the upper reaches of the West Little Owyhee River and is in one of the most remote areas in Oregon. We will be exploring both upstream and downstream in what is known as Louse Canyon. The rugged and geologically gorgeous canyon is cut by a designated Wild and Scenic River and it alternates between small stream and long deep pools, all bounded by steep cliffs. The hiking should be considered to be strenuous due to difficult terrain and plan to get your feet wet in the heat of the summer.

To register, contact: Bill Hart, 503-236-8058,


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,890 other followers