Public Lands

Conservation Column: Public Lands Belong to Everyone

malheur nwrI write this at the end of January when the volatile situation at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is just winding down. I feel sorrow that the illegal actions of the occupiers led to a life lost. I feel optimistic that this land which belongs to the public will once again be available for all to enjoy. I feel grateful that the people of Harney County will be free from the distress caused by the occupation and will again be able to interact with their many supporters as people flock to the refuge this spring. I feel comforted that the skies and waterways around the refuge will soon be filled with the graceful swoop of thousands of migratory birds despite the many (often foolish) activities of us human animals.

I cringed when I heard this fringe group say they were going to “take back” the land for the people, because it turns out that the people already have it. Each year, the refuge is visited and enjoyed by thousands who bring tourist dollars into the area. Management at the refuge is based on a plan resulting from the collaboration of members of the native Paiute tribe, ranchers and other community members, government workers, and scientists, among others. Some of the restoration projects are lauded for their potential to not only improve habitat, but also support the local community.