An annual rite of spring, the 19th Desert Conference at Oregon's Malheur Field Station, April 24-27, attracts people from around the country for field trips, networking, a desert rat poetry festival and lots of informative talks. Topics will cover the making of Utah's Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, cows and their intrusions into streams and the new move of national parks to retire grazing permits, among others. Speakers include the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance's Mike Matz, John Horning of Forest Guardians, Becky Mills, superintendent of the Great Basin National Park, and, debating what's beyond the cows vs. condos dichotomy, naturalist-activist George Wuerthner and High Country News publisher Ed Marston. The gathering is highly self-sufficient with dorm-style accommodations. Call Gilly Lyons at the Oregon Natural Desert Association for details, 541/330-2638.