Hart Mountain National Antelope  Refuge

Poker Jim Ridge

We woke up early again the next morning for a 9:00 am group meeting including a welcome from federal employee Laurel. Laurel wears multiple hats now because of the federal hiring freeze. There are two on-site staff for Hart Mountain’s 278k acres. There are another dozen staff at headquarters in Lakeview, Oregon, but they are also in charge of Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge 573 (k) acres in northern Nevada. In other words these public lands are staffed around 50k acres per employee.

Late starts seem to be our rhythm lately, so we weren’t fazed by the 10 am departure to the juniper removal site. Seven volunteers and one staff lopped and sawed young juniper trees above the CCC camp spot. (The handsome 1930’s era infirmary building still stands today but “is a death trap” because of lead paint, little maintenance, and harsh environs.)

Late afternoon was Michelle and my first relaxed period of time in a while – there was nothing we had to do and that felt extraordinary. So Michelle rolled out a mat and practiced yoga while I bantered with the other volunteers. Iliamna salmon dinner and a quick sunset photo jaunt finished the evening.

We headed out bright and early to continue Juniper removal the next day.
We had gotten the hang of removing the hardy plant. Fire suppression and climate change has allowed Juniper to spread into areas beyond its native range, stressing water supplies and crowding out other plants and wildlife. In addition, the plant provides perches for Greater Sage-Grouse predators, making it’s removal one part of the fight to restore Greater Sage-Grouse habitat.

We left work at 3 pm to make time for hike up Degarmo Canyon to a waterfall. 5:30 pm return to camp, have a drink and start campfire. Merriment and story sharing. Suzy sings a song about “a land without fences” and another “Harry Truman was the man.” Jeremy sings about “feral strippers.” 10:30 pm climb into bed! The seemed to go on forever and was also spectacular.

We said goodbye the next day after writing postcards to the BLM encouraging them to  include a process to allow for voluntary relinquishment of grazing permits and a process to identify areas no longer suitable for grazing in the amended Resource Management Plan (RMP) in the Greater Hart-Sheldon Region. ONDA has more info here: https://onda.org/get-involved/take-action/public-lands-planning.

We were off to the Owyhee Canyon Lands to look at Cedar Mountain Wilderness Study Area as part of ONDA’s independent stewards program.

 

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