Response to Malheur Refuge Standoff

Over the weekend, an armed group of right-wing extremists took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters complex, located about 30 miles southeast of Burns, Oregon. Their purported claim to be defending a local rancher with a long history of abusing his right to public land is part of a coordinated effort to strip federal protections for public lands throughout the nation. They are not supported by the local community and their use of unchecked armed and illegal tactics is hardly courageous or truly caring of the local community now in fear of its safety.

The Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is an extraordinary place, encompassing 188,000 acres of prime migration, breeding and wintering habitat for a wide spectrum of birds and other wildlife. Before this landscape was protected in 1908, migratory bird populations were nearly decimated by overhunting. As with so many of Oregon's remarkable wild places, the biodiversity and thriving ecosystem is protected because it matters to the people who live here. Community members and conservation groups working in the area have collaborated for many years to restore the critical bird habitat and develop conservation strategies that support the environment and the economy of the Harney Basin.

As an organization committed to the very long road of constant negotiation over the future of our wild places and public lands, Bark stands with the many environmental groups and rural community members who do not welcome this hateful political crusade in Oregon.

Please reach out to Senator Ron Wyden and Senator Jeff Merkley to demand that they denounce this violent action and be vigilant in supporting authorities to swiftly and peacefully end this armed occupation. Our elected representatives should use this reprehensible action as an opportunity to highlight the value of our public lands, strengthen environmental protections and further empower the public stewards of Malheur NWR to protect and restore this critically important refuge.

We are also keeping in mind, the impact on the communities of Harney County, as well as the many scientists and land managers who work on behalf of the Refuge and hope for their safety.