Gifts from Malheur

In the spirit of gratitude and reflection we asked Refuge Staff, Partners, Friends Board Members and Volunteers if they would share what they consider a gift they have received from Malheur NWR. Their responses where as diverse and profound as the landscape we love.

‘After serving as refuge biologist at Malheur for 15 years, one of the many gifts I received was a lifetime of memories of intimate experiences with wildlife, which I treasure.’ Gary Ivey, FOMR Board President

‘The Joyful Camaraderie of Shared Purpose’
Cindy Zalunardo, Member & Volunteer

‘One of my many gifts from Malheur over the years was the privilege Cal and I had of removing miles of unwanted Fencing—not everyone’s idea of fun, but so rewarding!!!’ Alice Elshoff, FOMR Board Member

‘Driving up the CPR after a day of birding and coming upon an open field where about one dozen short-eared owls were swooping and turning, hunting in the evening light. Not only were they life birds, but an unforgettable gift of beauty that only nature can provide.
Suzanne Staples, FOMR Board Member

‘I find both opportunities for solitude and inspiration on my visits to Malheur NWR. This is one of the few places where one can still have unique one-on-one experiences with wildlife. It’s simply a treasure.’
Dan Streiffert, Member & Volunteer

‘From breeding habitat for wildlife to someone’s first time fishing. The refuge provides memories, homes, a safe place, food, culture and so much more. To me Malheur NWR has given me many gifts: my first job in my conservation career, a new home from home, memories I will never forget, new life skills, new friends, and the most important gift to me was a family. I may be far from the family and friends I know and love, but I have a great addition to my family here at Malheur NWR. Makes the work relationship easy to communicate and talk to one another. We are all so different and special. Whether we come from different backgrounds, cultures, ideas, hobbies or appearance. We are different but that is what keeps the work keep rolling. We all work pretty well together and feel comfortable with one another. I am not saying we are all perfect because like almost every family differences can be cumbersome, but at the end of the day, they are my family. I am not sure I would have still stayed at Malheur NWR without the support I have at the refuge and the extended FWS regional office family. I am very proud, blessed, and super grateful to have each and every one of them in my life and I have the refuge to thank for that.’
Alexa Martinez, Malheur NWR Wildlife Biologist

‘Aside from having the time to step away from my desk, from paperwork, and from my dissertation, Malheur has given me the time to stop and experience the one thing that has been a constant companion, teacher, and inspiration throughout my life…the land. This land is quite different from the serpentine forests of my youth, but is the land that I have dreamed of since I was quite young. My endless gratitude for this land will never quite fit into words, but this is my attempt’:

solitary birdsong soundtracks
amid early morning pink-hued hills
owl call
star-filled skies
landscapes mirror-reflected on Malheur Lake
long-tailed weasel and mustelid play
among willows and ponds and waterways
wild flower painted meadows and hillsides
sage-brush scented rainstorms
ibis croak
glistening color-transformation
amid shifting sunlight and tules
Teresa Wicks, Portland Audubon Society Eastern OR Field Biologist



Change – A Consistent Constant.

Change – A Consistent Constant.

On August 31, 2019, Chad Karges, Project Leader for Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, retired. His career, spanning over 30 years, has been entirely in the National Wildlife Refuge System within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In addition to Malheur NWR, Chad worked on five other Refuges: Buffalo Lake and Matagorda Island in Texas, Kirwin in Kansas, Charles M Russell in Montana, and Salton Sea in California. His 20 year tenure at Malheur NWR began in 1999 as the Deputy Project Leader and in 2014 he was promoted to Project Leader.

The list of Chad’s accomplishments throughout his career is likely much longer than the Donner und Blitzen River. In my opinion, however, his most significant accomplishment was his vision and dedication to form ecological, economic and social partnerships. Chad departs the Refuge leaving a solid foundation for working with partners to deliver conservation not only on the Refuge but throughout the Harney Basin.

When it came time to prepare the Refuge’s Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) – the management plan that guides management of the Refuge – Chad along with interested partners recognized that a new model of planning would be needed if the process to develop the CCP was to achieve success. In the beginning it was not easy but failure was not an option. His ability to form meaningful relationships resulted in strong alliances among many partners formally known as the CCP Collaborative. In 2012, the CCP was approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and stands as a testament to the shared dedication, persistence, and lasting relationships of the CCP Collaborative partners. Consequently, the experience gained and the formative success earned from the CCP process has lead others in Harney County to utilize collaboration in order to resolve other complex problems.

Some now may wonder, without Chad, what will become of the partnerships embodied by the CCP Collaborative? I asked a similar question at the High Desert Partnership Summit in 2017 shortly after my arrival at the Malheur NWR. Chad’s response was essentially this: even when one of its members departs, the strength of a successful collaborative is the relationships of its remaining members and their collective commitment to resolve complex problems.

Change is a constant, however, I believe the CCP Collaborative will continue to function and achieve success through change because of a strong foundation and because of the dedication of those whom remain. Although Chad is moving on, his legacy of uniting diverse partners to resolve complex problems remains.

Cheers Chad! Best wishes from all of us in retirement!

By Jeff Mackay; Acting Project Leader, Malheur National Wildlife Refuge

Ode to Sod House Ranch

Half August
We come together
Clearing the trail for opening day~ August 15.
We imagine 100's visiting this vast Historical Wonder.
Cool morning; Hot afternoon.
Thunder heads boil the horizon,
Birds disguise their identity as silhouettes fronting the sun,
We are blinded.
Light & Beauty dazzle.
Flit, flash, flutter.
Ethereal shadows hide from our view,
on the far side of huge Cottonwoods.
Vultures are tree ornaments.
Rustling feathers and leaves.Feathers fall to Earth.
Huge white egrets bursting with pride offer fish "THIS BIG" to gangly chicks.
Squawking for ever bigger fish,
or perhaps a fat pack rat.
Youngsters settle as their parents describe "the one who got away".
Sauntering Sandhills grace new cut fields with the style of thoroughbred racehorses.
Their sounds drown out the squabbling egrets.
Nuthatches "peent".
Raptors bear witness.
Oh right...opening gates,
unlock doors.
Here's a notebook.
Step by step descriptions &
Photos show how to begin.
The Office, Bunkhouse, and Original Homestead have to be arranged.
Packrats reluctantly leave the safety of roofed enclosures...Sigh,
if only they were considerate guests!
They sure are cute!
Flash! Boom, crash!
Thunderheads, now lightning!
We pack and flee as the Earth is drenched with life giving rain.
Come to see the long manger,
Designed to hold wagon loads of hay necessary to feed 300 working horses.
Come to meet "Pedro", the only steer fit to represent the 10 vaqueros no longer bunking in the bunkhouse.
Bring your spotting scopes, binoculars, and curiosity.
Mornings refresh. 
Afternoons scintilate.
Sodhouse Ranch awaits You.

Written by Dale Broszeit, FWS & FOMR Volunteer

Carp Derby at Malheur Refuge

Written by Peter Pearsall/Photo by Peter Pearsall

On Saturday, August 17, FOMR and Refuge staff will host the annual Carp Fishing Derby at Malheur Headquarters. This event, which began in 2010 and has been held nearly every year since, has traditionally served to kick off a week-long carp fishing season at the Refuge. Today, it’s an opportunity for visitors to come to the Refuge and participate in a good-natured fishing competition, as well as learn more about common carp and the management issues they pose to Refuge staff.

Common carp were introduced to Harney Basin waterways sometime in the early 1900s, likely as a source of food for landowners. They began showing up at the Refuge in the 1920s, and by the 1950s their expanded numbers were having detrimental effects on aquatic habitats within the Refuge. Common carp are bottom feeders, and their constant rooting about for food clouds the water and smothers aquatic vegetation, depriving it of the sunlight necessary for photosynthesis. As aquatic and emergent vegetation disappeared from Malheur’s waterways during the height of the carp invasion, waterfowl and shorebirds—dependent on these habitat types for feeding and nesting—abandoned the Refuge.

Carp management is therefore a top priority at Malheur Refuge. Past management efforts have involved piscicides, explosives, electroshocking, fish barriers, hand removal, and hiring a commercial fishing fleet to catch carp and convert them to fertilizer. Each of these methods has upsides and downsides; all have met with lukewarm results thus far. Read more about the ongoing Carp Biomass Study at Malheur Refuge.

Events like the Carp Fishing Derby at the Refuge put a light-hearted spin on this serious conservation issue. The Carp Derby is designed primarily for kids, but everyone is welcome to participate. There will be games and activities, educational information about the effects of carp on Harney Basin wetlands, plus prizes for the best fishing and some cooking of carp to feed the attendees.

FOMR Annual Members Weekend

Friends of Malheur NWR is celebrating 20 years of promoting conservation and appreciation of natural and cultural resources. Join our BIRTHDAY Celebration with this FREE line up of events!

Friday – Board & Members

1:00 PM Board Meeting: FOMR Board of Directors and Refuge Staff will meet to discuss upcoming programs along with the progress of ongoing projects.

5:00 – 7:00 PM Happy Hour: All are welcome to join us for a casual evening of dining and drinks at a local restaurant in Burns, OR. Location TBD

Saturday – Public & Free

7:30 – 11:30 Migrate Malheur: Expert birders, biologists and renowned authors will be stationed at key birding hotspots along the Auto Tour Route to share the thrill of Birding and Exploring Malheur with you!
Presentations at Refuge HQ by Gary Ivey, Biologist and FOMR President.

9:00 AM Sandhill Cranes of the Pacific Flyway
11:00 AM Conservation Challenges of Trumpeter Swans at Malheur

For Transportation: Two vans will leave from Burns HS and return by noon. Pre-register for a seat on the van at 541.493.2612

Presentations and Book signing by Kenn Kaufman & Alan Contreras followed by an auction to support the Tribal Stewards program on Malheur NWR.
Let us know you intend to join us!

Sunday – Members & Guests

8:30 – 12:00 PM & 1:00 – 4:30 PM Friends Guided Tours: Sign up for a van tour of either Boca Lake or Double O units of the Refuge. You will be led by one of FOMR’s Board Members having extensive history with Malheur Refuge, including many years of biological work.

Double O Unit – Unique unto itself, the “Wilds” of the Double O unit of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge are a blend of playas, dunes, meadows, lakes and ponds. This westernmost region of the Refuge provides excellent habitat for shorebirds on receding mudflats and alkali playas. You will be guided by one of FOMR’s Birding Aficionados and Board Members. From swallows to ducks to swans and eagles, the list can often reach twenty-five species! AM Tour PM Tour

Boca Lake Unit – Experience this beautiful sub-basin of the Blitzen Valley, exploring the wetlands and surrounding habitats of the 600-acre Boca Lake. You will be guided by one of FOMR’s Birding Aficionados and Board Members. and You can expect an abundance of water birds and plenty of upland species as you circumnavigate the lake. Due to the importance of this specialized habitat, which is a rare oasis in the Harney Basin, this area is otherwise closed to the public! AM Tour PM Tour

Suggested Donation of $20/person. Donations and Membership dues are put towards Friends of Malheur Projects and Programs that further our mission to promote conservation and appreciation of the natural and cultural resources at Malheur NWR.

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