Volunteer work parties enable FOMR to perform a wide variety of general maintenance at Malheur Refuge.

Several months after the armed occupation of Malheur Refuge in January 2016, a contingent from the local community was the first group of volunteers to return to Headquarters at Malheur NWR. In a symbolic gesture of taking their Refuge back, they and subsequent work parties helped with numerous projects, including:

  • Picking up trash around the complex and doing an inventory of items the Refuge no longer needed
  • Reinforcing the willow fence around the observation blind at Marshall Pond and reseeding areas that had been disturbed by the occupiers and their illegal use of heavy equipment
  • Replacing the Refuge sign at Headquarters

In the past, FOMR work parties (alongside volunteers from other organizations, including Audubon Society of Portland and Oregon Natural Desert Association) have also helped to maintain Refuge trails and kiosks, as well as remove unwanted fence posts and barbed wire from the Refuge. FOMR volunteers from as far away as Portland, Boise and Seattle have visited the Refuge to work on various projects.



Projects - Pollinator garden


In spring of 2016 following the Refuge occupation, a group of hardy gardeners, organized by Alice Elshoff, Friends Vice Chair, went to work to build a pollinator garden and plant trees to shade future Refuge visitors.  These intrepid gardeners pulled weeds, dug up rocks, shoveled dirt, hauled soil enhancer then moved some more rocks. Finally, they were able to place a collection of pollinating plants in their garden at the trail head to Marshall Pond. But these gardeners weren’t done.  Several tree wells were dug out of hard ground and rock. Trees were then planted in them. The next step was a big one but necessary to keep everything watered and growing, an automatic drip system was installed by Board member Jerry Moore to keep every tree watered.  Finally, benches were placed along the wheelchair accessible Marshall Trail loop.

In 2018 a plan was germinated by the Friends Project Committee to build a more permanent garden for the Refuge’s pollinators. In August, Alice Elshoff, Friends Vice Chair and Linda Hoffman, Project Committee Co-Chairs made a presentation to Lisa Sanco of Worthy Garden Club in Bend, Oregon. Lisa immediately agreed to become the primary sponsor.  Her considerable horticultural and graphic-design skills were most valuable in the garden’s design. The Worthy Garden Club, a 501c3 organization, is a strong supporter of sustainable and environmentally wise practices in business as well for home gardens. Their demonstration gardens on location at Worthy Brewery include a bee hive with supporting pollinating plants.

The Worthy Garden Club Pollinator Garden is located adjacent to the Friends of Malheur NWR Crane’s Nest Nature Center. A collection of informative material regarding native and non-native pollinators and plants that provide the nectar they require is available in the Nature Center. The garden can be viewed anytime the Refuge is open.

Projects - Highway Cleanup


Every year, Friends of Malheur Refuge sponsors a Highway 205 litter clean-up on the five miles adjacent to the south end of Malheur Refuge just north of Frenchglen.
Projects - Carp Derby


In August FOMR and Refuge staff host the annual Carp Fishing Derby at Malheur Headquarters. This event, which began in 2010 and has been held nearly every year since, serves to kick off a week-long carp fishing season at the Refuge. 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.
Projects - John Scharff Bird Festival


Representing Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, FOMR organizes and leads birding tours for the annual Harney County Migratory Bird Festival. Tours range throughout Harney Basin but often revolve around Malheur Refuge.
Projects - Internships


For several years, an internship managed jointly by Malheur Field Station and FOMR sponsored students for the benefit of the Refuge each summer. Interns assisted Refuge staff with bird surveys and banding projects, aquatic vegetation surveys, invertebrate inventories, and much else. FOMR is looking to expand its internship program in the near future—stay tuned for updates.
Projects - Bobolink


Every June, in cooperation with Malheur National Wildlife Refuge staff, FOMR volunteers and field biologists from the Portland Audubon Society survey for bobolinks on the Refuge. Closely related to blackbirds, bobolinks are a handsome wetland-dependent species; Malheur Refuge hosts the largest breeding population in the western U.S.


Several trails at Malheur Refuge have been adopted by FOMR to ensure they are regularly maintained. Volunteer work parties are assembled to clear brush and debris, replace trail markers, and perform other general upkeep. For a list of trails at Malheur Refuge, download the Hiking Trail Map.


The Friends of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, in conjunction with the Harney County Migratory Bird Festival, sponsored the annual Artist-in-Residence (AIR) program. Wildlife Refuge Specialist Carey Goss and a local artist spent eight days traveling to schools in Burns, Diamond, Frenchglen, Crane, Drewsey, Riley, Double O, and Fields. The program combines history, art and science and served almost 600 students in grades K-8. Students’ art is featured at the annual Harney County Migratory Bird Festival, along with artwork from Hines Middle School, Burns High School, Crane Union High School, homeschoolers, and other youth groups.


Projects - Auto Tour


In 2005, FOMR wrote the brochure and procured the original signs for Malheur’s Auto Tour Route, a 42-mile self-guided tour along the Refuge’s Center Patrol Road. Nineteen stops mark the way and are interpreted in a script available at Refuge Headquarters or online. The script touches on the natural and cultural history and geology of the area, provides information about the plant and animal life found on the Refuge, and highlights current Refuge management priorities.

In October 2017, ten volunteers equipped with shovels, tampers, bars, levels, drills, buckets of gravel and paint brushes helped to replace the old, faded signs with new ones. Under the direction of FOMR Vice President Alice Elshoff, they removed all 38 of the old signs, replanted or replaced the posts, stained them and attached the new signs, which feature FOMR’s current logo alongside an illustration of pelicans with binoculars, people-watching from a red convertible.

Projects - Aquatic Health


In May 2014, FOMR volunteers assisted in tagging, measuring, and recapturing carp for a research project at Malheur Lake. For the project, Malheur NWR and FOMR partnered with several other organizations to mark/recapture 10,000 carp to collect age/length data to determine carp population estimates in the lake, and whether commercial fishing is a viable carp control strategy. Common carp, an invasive species, threatens the aquatic health of waterways in Harney Basin by impacting aquatic vegetation, which migrating waterfowl depend on for food and shelter.
Projects - Blitzen River Restoration


A fast-learning, hard-working crew of volunteers from the Central Oregon Flyfishers (COF), organized by Jen Bock, ODFW-STEP Biologist, and Gene McMullen of the COF, planted hundreds of willow, dogwood and elderberry cuttings raised in the Friends of MNWR clone bed along two miles of the Blitzen River. The goals are to restore native riparian vegetation to one of southeast Oregon’s treasured redband trout streams and provide high quality woody and herbaceous shrubs to benefit numerous wildlife species.
Projects - The Narrows


​FOMR was the catalyst in bringing together Refuge staff, the Oregon Department of Transportation, County Transportation Commission, Harney County Court, and the Harney County Chamber of Commerce to secure safe off-road parking at The Narrows for wildlife viewing. This project was made possible by donations of time, equipment, and dollars from the above participants as well as dedicated funds from the Harney County Migratory Bird Festival. The new parking area was completed in October 2003, and interpretative panels were installed in spring 2007.
Projects - Frenchglen Kiosk


In Spring 2015, FOMR volunteers and Board members planned, constructed and put in a three-part information kiosk at Frenchglen, near the southern boundary of the Refuge.