Laura Erickson's For the Birds

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Malheur NWR Standoff

California Quail
California Quail, "abundant" on the Malheur NWR watchable wildlife checklist.

The Audubon Society of Portland, Oregon, has issued a statement regarding the current takeover of Malheur NWR by armed insurrectionists. This statement is profoundly important, so I am reading it verbatim.
Malheur National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1908 by President Theodore Roosevelt to protect the vast populations of waterbirds that were being decimated by wanton killing by the plume trade. The 188,000 acre refuge represents some of the most important bird habitat on the Pacific Flyway. It is one of the crown jewels of the National Wildlife Refuge System and belongs to all Americans. In 2013, the Refuge adopted a long-term management plan developed through an inclusive collaborative process that brought together the local community, tribes, conservation groups, state and federal agencies, and other stakeholders. These stakeholders have continued to work together to implement this strategy which includes one of the biggest wetland restoration efforts ever undertaken. 
The occupation of Malheur by armed, out of state militia groups puts one of America’s most important wildlife refuges at risk. It violates the most basic principles of the Public Trust Doctrine and holds hostage public lands and public resources to serve the very narrow political agenda of the occupiers. The occupiers have used the flimsiest of pretexts to justify their actions—the conviction of two local ranchers in a case involving arson and poaching on public lands. Notably, neither the local community or the individuals convicted have requested or endorsed the occupation or the assistance of militia groups. 

William Finley documenting Malheur's wildlife, circa 1908.
 Portland Audubon fought 100 years ago to protect this incredible place. The powerful images taken by Portland Audubon founder, William Finley, of Malheur’s incredible bird populations and the wanton killing that was being inflicted upon them, caused President Roosevelt to make Malheur one of the first wildlife refuges in the Western United States. Portland Audubon calls upon the local, state and federal authorities to once again protect this incredible place for the amazing wildlife that live there and to preserve this natural heritage for current and future generations. Portland Audubon greatly appreciates the outstanding federal employees that staff the refuge, as well as members of the local community who have rejected this occupation. We hope for a safe, expeditious end to this armed occupation so that the myriad of local and non-local stakeholders can continue to work together to restore Malheur in ways that are supportive of both the local ecology and the local economy—the occupiers are serving nobody’s interests except their own.
Photo by William Finley, 1908
Roosevelt's executive order establishing the Malheur NWR is here.
If YOU want to help, consider becoming a member of the Friends of Malheur NWR

Read the U.S. Attorney General's statement about the original court case involving the Hammonds, and about the re-sentencing. 

On their website, Portland Audubon quotes the vision for the refuge that was adopted in 2013. Birders and other wildlife watchers infuse millions of dollars into the local economy, drawn by over 300 species of birds on the refuge checklist. We as a nation must protect these tiny pockets of habitat that belong to each and every one of us and provide essential breeding, wintering, and migratory stopover habitat for a great many birds.

The refuge was set aside many decades before any of these armed insurrectionists were even born. Lands for the National Wildlife Refuge system have been purchased or leased with money from sales of Duck Stamps. Every waterfowl hunter is required to purchase a Duck Stamp, and a great many birders also purchase them to support this important system. Every one of us who loves the outdoors and wildlife, including hunters and birders, must stand in solidarity to protect this critical habitat that belongs to each and every one of us.