Malheur Occupation Ends, Restoration Can Begin

News broke early this morning that the four remaining occupants of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge agreed to surrender to authorities at 8 a.m. PST. About three hours later, the occupiers were taken into custody.

Great blue heron at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge | Steve Shunk, USFWS volunteer

The following is a statement by David Houghton, president of the National Wildlife Refuge Association:

“We’re relieved to finally see the occupation of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge come to an end. The FBI, local law enforcement and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service should be commended for a peaceful resolution, despite threats of violence from the four remaining occupants. These criminals will now be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, as they should.

The work to restore Malheur can now begin, but it will not be quick or easy. With threats of booby-traps and videotaped evidence of damage to roads, fences and other refuge property, the effort to assess and repair the damages will be extensive.

Today, as we express our relief, we should also reflect on this episode, and consider how we got here, and ways we can come together in every community to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

America’s national wildlife refuges are public lands we all cherish, whether for their incredible and diverse wildlife habitats, their recreational opportunities or their ability to inspire children and adults alike to love and conserve our shared heritage as Americans.

Let’s not let the criminal activities of extremists distract the rest of us from the important collaborative conservation work that continues throughout this nation, with America’s national wildlife refuges playing a leading role in conserving our best landscapes for the future.”

Read the press release.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.refugeassociation.org/2016/02/malheur-occupation-ends-restoration-can-begin/


  1. Mary Swihart says:

    Congratulations in the way you have conducted yourselves throughout this long event. We must continue to educate the public in the value of all our public lands and the importance of keeping those lands under the management of the Federal Govt. We cannot allow them to revert to the states. The states do not have the resources to manage the lands and they would be sold to developers, ranchers or speculators OR they would be privatized in some way or another. They would be lost to the rest of us forever. They are a valuable trust for the future. We cannot afford to be short sighted for short term financial or political gain. So please increase your education programs through schools, publications, social media and anyway you can with emphasis on the value of these lands and the fact that they belong to each and every US citizen.

    Do not wait to be invited into schools to conduct programs, primarily at the high School level but make the effort to contact schools and offer your programs for their Biology classes or Government classes. Also you might be able to contact State level education departments, suggesting educational standards be included concerning environmental and habitat issues,

    I am a retired Biology teacher having taught at the high school and community college levels. I made it a practice to invite US Fish and Wildlife Biologists into my classroom to make presentations. I know how important those presentations were for the understanding of my students.

    Again, I congratulate you on your restraint and success in bringing to a close the take-over and stand off. I also commend you on the operation of the refuge system. Hopefully there will not be any more problems of this sort but with the present political climate, I would not rule that out.

  2. Kathy says:

    Once the crime scene is cleared, I am one of at least 600 people who have volunteered to go help the refuge and the community with restoration projects.

    As the Friends of Malheur Wildlife Refuge have suggested (even as at least one of them was kept from his home during the occupation) 1) donate, 2) donate to the refuge association, 3) sign up to help clean up, 4) if you can’t come to Harney County, donate some dollars or volunteer at your local refuge, 5) advocate for public lands, especially refuges.

    In short… non illegitiumus carborundum… grab your work gloves or click on a donate link or write constructive letters to your Congress beings and local newsletters, or show up at public meetings to ensure that public lands are kept safe from privatization, and communities are kept safe from armed insurrectionists.

    See, as private people, we can advocate in ways that the fed employees and nonprofits can’t. Everyone can do SOMETHING for public lands!

    Thanks NWRA and FOMWR for your integrity and care.

  3. P.Veit says:

    Hi I’m glad you got the Refuge cleaned. As far as I know Ocala National Forest still has homeless and not safe to drive around taking pictures, which is what I do. We do spend a lot of time in Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge on Titusville, FL taking pictures of birds and wildlife. I can’t walk to well so I need parks that have driving roads.

  4. Danny Kimberlin says:

    It’s hard to say it better than Mr. Houghton and previous comments. I totally agree that we must make sure the message of how important public lands are for the nation and even as an example to the world. No other country had national parks until we started the idea. Now most countries have parks even if many don’t have the funds to protect them. It is urgent to communicate to our elected officials our wholehearted support for these lands so they don’t sell out to the states or the lowest bidder. That would be a catastrophe. This incident was a carried out by a small and misguided group of extremists that in no way represents the opinion of most Americans. Our public lands help make us great and we must show our support.

  5. Molly Zammit says:

    It is a relief that Malheur is ‘free at last’ from the occupation! It has been mind boggling to see the rhetoric, twisting of facts, and outright lies that made their way into the public during the occupation on the part of the militants and their friends. I am grateful US Fish and Wildlife conducted themselves in a respectful manner throughout the last 41 days!

    We need to keep in mind the Harney County Community. The fruits of the occupation, division, anger, and mistrust, left invisible scars on these people. Perhaps working together rebuilding and fixing the visible scars left at the Refuge by the occupation will help to mend the torn friendships within the Burns community. As the Malheur staff said, Harney County is not afraid of tough discussions. They certainly have some tough ones ahead of them.

    And we cannot forget to advocate for community participation in determining the future of public lands. Many discussions with landowners, ranchers, farmers and community members with the government help guide decisions made by US Fish and Wildlife and other agencies. This is ‘Government of the people, by the people, for the people’ in action! If everyone can look past their own personal desires and work together to do what is best for the lands based on science then we shall not perish from the Earth as a nation.

  6. Emmalee Tarry says:

    I am very happy that the criminal activity at Malheur Wildlife Refuge has ended, I support the prosecution of the participants to the full extent of the law. I congratulate the refuge personnel, law enforcement and all who participated in this peaceful handling of the situation.

    As a person from the east who has visited Malheur Wildlife Refuge on two occasions I am happy that this beautiful piece of America has been returned to its rightful owners, the people of the USA. I wish I could participate in the restoration.

  7. Richard Spotts says:

    Now that the Malheur Refuge occupation leaders are in jail and facing multiple felony indictments, the long process of investigating the crime scene and assessing damages is underway. In addition to the criminal jail terms and fines for any felony convictions, I hope that the Oregon U.S. Attorney and Interior Solicitor will pursue civil judgments to reimburse the taxpayers for the damages done to natural and cultural resources, and for the enormous costs associated with the prolonged illegal occupation. If these judgments are obtained and not promptly paid, liens should be placed against the occupiers’ real and personal property to ensure eventual payment. Cliven Bundy reportedly owes over a million dollars in BLM trespass grazing fees and penalties, yet there has apparently not been a civil judgment obtained nor any liens placed for collection. These lawbreakers need to be held fully accountable for both their crimes and their costs to taxpayers.

  8. RCS Optics says:

    All to often when a situation such as the occupation of Malheur Refuge is resolved the public interest wains even when full resolution is not yet complete. In this case we fully agree with Richard’s point that the lawbreakers need to be fully accountable for both their crimes and the costs incurred by taxpayers.

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