Casual readers of news coverage of the recent armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge might reasonably assume that the Refuge is strictly protected from livestock grazing. After all, that’s one of the things the vigilantes were protesting, right? The big, bad federal government locked up the lands from grazing and they were there to take it back?

Sadly, that yarn is far from the truth.

In fact, much of the wildlife refuge is grazed by private cattle, and even “hayed” for livestock feed, despite these activities’ dubious legality and harmful impacts on wildlife.


Malheur National Wildlife Refuge ©Ken Cole

The Refuge is Grazed and Hayed

According to a recent High Country News article, grazing was first allowed decades ago to placate local ranchers:

During the Depression years of the 1930s, the federal government paid the Swift Corp. $675,000 for ruined grazing lands. Impoverished homesteaders who had squatted on refuge lands eventually received payments substantial enough to set them up as cattle ranchers nearby.

John Scharff, Malheur’s manager from 1935 to 1971, sought to transform local suspicion into acceptance by allowing local ranchers to graze cattle on the refuge.

Dr. Steve Herman, Emeritus Member of the Faculty and long-time ornithology instructor at The Evergreen State College, first visited the Refuge in 1966 and has been studying birds on the Refuge and taking students there ever since. He shared these recent images of cattle grazing and haying on the Refuge.

The Refuge was opened to increased cattle grazing in 2012 to accommodate cattle displaced by wildfires.

In addition to the authorized grazing, he reports that cattle regularly trespass into unauthorized areas—even the lawn of the Headquarters, which was littered with cowpies as recently as early August of 2015.


Trespass cattle on the Refuge, 2014. Photo Dr. Steve Herman.

Trespass cattle on the Refuge, 2014. Photo: Dr. Steve Herman.

Hay bales about to be trucked off the Refuge. Photo Dr. Steve Herman.

Hay bales about to be trucked off the Refuge. Photo: Dr. Steve Herman.

Acre after acre of Refuge lands “hayed” for cattle feed. Video: Dr. Steve Herman

How Should Refuges be Managed?

The mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System is to “administer a national network of lands and waters for the conservation, management, and where appropriate, restoration of the fish, wildlife, and plant resources and their habitats within the United States for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.” 16 U.S.C. § 668dd(a)(2).

In administering the System, the Secretary shall “ensure that the biological integrity, diversity, and environmental health of the System are maintained for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.” Id. § (a)(4)(B).

To that end, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service may only permit other activities on a refuge when it “determines that such uses are compatible with the major purposes for which such areas were established.” Id. § (d)(1)(A). In addition, regulations provide that “private economic use of the natural resources” of a refuge can only occur if the use “contributes to the achievement of the national wildlife refuge purposes or the National Wildlife Refuge System mission.” 50 C.F.R. § 29.1.

In Malheur’s case, Teddy Roosevelt’s original 1908 declaration establishing the Refuge provided that it was “set aside for the use of the Department of Agriculture as a preserve and breeding-ground for native birds.”

A 1935 order confirmed it was “a refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife.” Exec. Order. No. 7106.

The 2013 Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP)

Several articles have painted the 2013 management plan governing the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, known as a Comprehensive Conservation Plan, as a triumph of collaboration.

That’s one way of putting it.

Another is that the plan made deep compromises on allowing the continuation of grazing and haying on the Refuge to appease local ranchers, at the expense of the ecological integrity of the Refuge.

In 2009, the Refuge began a process of updating its CCP. It did so utilizing a collaborative process. The collaborative group included several ranchers, who proved very effective at advancing their interests.

The result was that the final 2013 plan allows for the continuation of extensive grazing and haying on the refuge. The plan states that its “tools” to manage wetlands and terrestrial habitats include “traditional late summer haying,” “autumn/winter rake-bunch grazing,” “highly prescriptive warm-season (growing season) grazing,” mowing, and farming.

In particular, the plan allows grazing on thousands of acres of wet meadows.

Sign board at the Refuge. (click for larger view) © Kristin Ruether.

Sign board at the Refuge. (click for larger view) © Kristin Ruether.

What About the Refuge’s Wildlife-Centric Mandate?

In order to justify these activities as “compatible” with the purpose of the Refuge and the Refuge system mandate—to protect birds and wildlife—the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was forced to do somersaults and concoct quasi-scientific reasons to justify allowing grazing—an activity that everywhere else is well-known to cause severe damage to riparian and avian habitats.

The plan’s “compatability determination” for grazing and haying asserts that the primary reason for “treating” wet meadows with grazing is to “improve foraging conditions” for birds. It claims that grazing “treatments” “provide short-stubble habitat, which allows early warming of soil and water and early availability of new green sprouts and invertebrates for birds to eat in the spring.” It explains that, “[t]heoretically, treated meadow sites receive more solar radiation, resulting in early warming of soils and earlier availability of important invertebrates for food.” CCP Appendix B.

In other words, when a wet meadow has been denuded of vegetation by cows, the sun will warm up the ground earlier in the season and allow birds to eat invertebrates sooner. The early bird gets the worm in the grazed field!

The problem is that the plan provides scant evidence or justification for this theory. Its main citation in support is an unpublished and non-peer-reviewed prior Malheur management plan.

The compatability determination doesn’t discuss whether a lack of early-spring forage is actually a limiting factor for important or rare birds on the Refuge. It doesn’t explain why birds that have been migrating to Malheur for thousands of years now need human manipulation to make their habitat suitable.

Nor does it convincingly balance the “theoretically” warmer fields against the real harm to birds that grazing and haying causes due to loss of habitat complexity, loss of hiding cover, and an increased vulnerability to predators.

In this video, Dr. Herman explains that grazing on the Refuge causes harms including crushing eggs and removing cover that birds such as cranes need to protect their young from predators.

In other words, according to scientists like Dr. Herman, livestock and haying operations on the wildlife refuge are not compatible with the purposes of the Refuge—to serve as a preserve and refuge for birds.

Time for a New Era

In a piece this week, WildEarth Guardians’ Erik Molvar noted that in the wake of the takeover placing increased attention on the fiscally and environmentally disastrous consequences of public lands livestock grazing, a new mandate has emerged for public lands protection.

Here’s hoping that this mandate will lead to a new era of wildlife-centric management on the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge itself—one that does away with the incompatible uses of grazing and haying on the Refuge.

Pursuant to BLM’s multiple-use mandate, BLM lands surrounding the Refuge, and across the West, are grazed. Surely we can remove livestock from that small fraction of public lands in the West governed by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under a wildlife-centric mandate.

Because Malheur really is for the birds.

About The Author

Kristin Ruether

Kristin Ruether is a Senior Attorney at Western Watersheds Project.

43 Responses to Malheur was taken over by ranchers long before the Bundys came along

  1. avatar Rob Mrowka says:

    Thanks for this excellent recount of the refuge’s history and challenges

  2. avatar Ida Lupines says:

    OK, enough is enough. These people are never satisfied, and any compromise/concessions just lead to their wanting/expecting more. While the government is self-congratulatory about how well we all can agree and work together (what a lie), our precious wild lands and wildlife disappear, little by little.

    If there is a serious drought, I fear for these refuges. Scary like the Hetch Hechey project. 🙁

  3. Peter Skene Ogden observed Bison skulls, tracks and droppings when he visited the Malheur area way back in the 1820s. Why not bring some of the genetically pure and disease free Yellowstone Bison from the Henry Mountains in Utah and release them in the Malheur Refuge. Give the ranchers something else to bitch about.

  4. avatar Viochita Fea says:

    No one should be ranching anymore. Cows are the animals generating the greatest and most powerful green house gases. Cows are driving the planet off the cliff due to climate change. Ranch lands should all be turned into carbon sinks.

    • avatar marhlfld says:

      Are you kidding me? What a bunch of bull you are shoveling. The latest volcano that blew last week puts out more gas than all of humanity and cows put together for the last 3,000 years. Where’d you get that stupid information from? Al Gore? LMAO…

      • avatar Ralph Maughan says:


        Since you don’t say what kind of gas the volcano blew out, it is hard to judge your comment.

        Quite often folks will give the opinion that a volcano or volcanoes put out more carbon dioxide than all human activities. It might seem reasonable to believe this because an erupting volcano is impressive, but it is not correct, very much wrong. In 2007 for example, human activities produced 29 billion tons of carbon dioxide. Volcanos average a much smaller amount — 65 to 310 million tons.

      • avatar Mal Adapted says:

        Heh. “Science. It works, bitches”

        Those of us who get our scientific information from scientists know Al Gore isn’t one, marhlfld. If you don’t trust scientists, who do you get your information from, and why do you trust them?

  5. avatar Yvette says:

    It’s excellent to read about the background and history of the management of Malheur WR. It appears they were more interested in managing it for the ranchers than for the wetlands and the birds. Listening to the Steve Herman interview is heartbreaking. And here I though the Malheur would be more like the Apache del bosque NWR, which is an important resting area on the Central Flyway.

  6. avatar Kyle G says:

    Thanks for the article Kristin. The agencies managing our public lands have long exhibited clear characteristics of being captured by local livestock, mining and timber interests. The “collaborative process” is an oxymoron that perpetuates agency capture and the extractive industry welfare system. The 2013 plan’s “compatibility determination” is a complete farce, the absolute worst way to skew both science and common sense. The notion that in theory the “treated meadow sites receive more solar radiation,” is utter nonsense and has no validity under even the loosest application of the term. I’ve seen similar justifications for continued cattle grazing at regional parks in California and it’s the same type of flagrant propaganda: cattle are good stewards regarding fire suppression, invasive plant control, and habitat protection. Yes and cow pies are works of art too. I’d like to think Molvar’s piece would generate some momentum, but the fiasco of unregulated grazing on western public lands has been well documented for decades. The phony science used in the 2013 plan for Malheur suggests that the new mandate for public lands protection has a steep hill to climb. Still, we must give it a go. (2/4/16)

  7. avatar Marc Bedner says:

    The hopefully defunct grand compromise at the Malheur is an example of the hunter-rancher compromise which has plagued the wildlife refuge system ever since big-game hunter Teddy Roosevelt first decided to set aside breeding grounds to provide targets for bird killers. Now it seems Erik Molvar, who became notorious among WildEarth Guardian supporters for writing about the joys of killing pronghorn, is emerging as a spokesman for the hunters who are upset by ranching.
    As the article points out, the general public is largely unaware of the extent of livestock grazing on wildlife refuges. It should also be pointed out that the public is unaware of the extent of wildlife killing, both for fun and for predator control, on wildlife refuges. The Bundy gang has torn up the hunter-rancher compromise. It’s time we set aside wildlife refuges for the wildlife.

    • avatar marhlfld says:

      This article is total bunk as far as the Bundy’s taking a stand on Malheur. It was NOT about grazing, you liar. And you damn well know it wasn’t. It was about the Hammond’s being railroaded and made to serve another jail sentence, called “Double Jeopardy” over a minor issue of a small backfire burn that accidently burned 135 acres of BLM managed land. The Hammonds stopped it on their own with no help from BLM. They had been given permission to do a burn on their own land. After the minor incident, BLM was notified it happened, by the Hammonds themselves and the reaction by BLM? Oh, no big deal. But some idiot was reviewing records about 5 years later decided they need to prosecute them for it. After serving time, then being re-prosecuted for the same crime, “Double Jeopardy”, Bundys decided they need to do something to bring national attention to the injustice. They initiated something called a “sit in” at the vacant bldgs at Malheur. They exercised their 1st and 2nd Amendment rights. By the way, Oregon happens to be a Open Carry state, so they were doing nothing illegal with guns. Malheur is NOT federally owned. It is federally managed by agreement with the state. The state can withdraw its contract at anytime. But because of the corruption and loss of revenue from fed gov’t subsidizes, Oregon isn’t interested in doing so. The Bundy “sit in” was totally peaceful and they were making trips to town for educational meetings. They had been invited to speak at another town, John Day, where there was expected 400 people to be in attendance. Subject? Mismanagement of forests by federal forestry service which caused 100’s of 1,000’s of acres which burned out of control. This was a devastation to Grant Co and it’s residents, not to mention job losses. And how dare someone try to educate another, you can get ambushed and killed for doing so.

      • avatar Ralph Maughan says:


        You are wrong about almost everything,but here is the statement Acting United States Attorney Billy J. Williams District of Oregon about the case and conclusions in U.S. versus Dwight and Steven Hammond. As webmaster of this site, I want you to read the statement and be prepared to comment on it if you want to post here again.

        As the Acting United States Attorney for the District of Oregon, I write to the citizens of Harney County to address ongoing attempts by outside individuals and organizations that are making statements and using social media to express views which are clearly contrary to what occurred publicly in an open courtroom. I understand that there are some individuals and organizations who object to the Hammonds returning to prison to serve the remainder of their sentences mandated by statute. I respect their right to peacefully disagree with the prison terms imposed. However, any criminal behavior contemplated by those who may object to the court’s mandate that harms someone will not be tolerated and will result in serious consequences. The following is a summary of the facts in United States v. Dwight and Steven Hammond, including the actions and positions taken by this office throughout the course of the case.
        Five years ago, a federal grand jury charged Dwight and Steven Hammond with committing arson on public lands, and endangering firefighters. The charges came after the Hammonds rejected an offer to settle the case by pleading guilty to lesser charges and sentences.
        Three years ago, after a two-week trial in Pendleton, Oregon, a jury found 70-year old Dwight and his son, 43-year old Steven Hammond, guilty of committing arson on public lands in 2001. Steven Hammond was also found guilty of committing a second arson in 2006. They were found not guilty of other arson charges, and while the jury was deliberating on the remaining charges, the Hammonds negotiated for the dismissal of those charges and a promise from the U.S. Attorney to recommend the minimum sentence mandated by law. The Hammonds assured the trial judge that they knew the law required they serve no less than five years in prison. The U.S. Attorney also agreed they should remain free until sentencing.
        The Hammonds had long ranched private and public lands in Eastern Oregon. Although they leased public lands for grazing, they were not permitted to burn the lands without prior authorization from the BLM. In 1999, a BLM employee reminded Steven Hammond of this after he started a fire that escaped onto public land.
        At trial, jurors heard from a hunting guide, a hunter and the hunter’s father, who saw the Hammonds illegally, slaughter a herd of deer on public land. At least seven deer were shot with others limping or running from the scene. Less than two hours later, the hunting guide and the hunter and his father, were forced to abandon their campsite because a fire was burning in the area where the deer had been shot. The hunting guide’s testimony and photographs established fires were burning hours before Steven Hammond called the BLM and said he was going to do a burn of invasive species in the area.
        A teenage relative, who was with the Hammonds in 2001 when those fires were set, told the jury that he was handed a box of “Strike Anywhere” matches, and Steven Hammond told him to drop lit matches on the ground so as to “light up the whole country on fire.” He did as instructed and the resulting eight to ten foot flames spread quickly. Fearing for his life he was forced to take shelter in a creek. The jury heard evidence that once back at the ranch, Dwight and Steven told him to “keep his mouth shut,” and that “nobody needed to know about the fire.” The fires destroyed evidence of the deer slaughter and took 139 acres of public land out of public use for two years.
        The evidence at trial convinced the jury beyond a reasonable doubt that the Hammonds were guilty of the federal crime of arson; that is, maliciously damaging United States property by fire. The jury was neither asked if the Hammonds were terrorists, nor were defendants ever charged with or accused of terrorism. Suggesting otherwise is simply flat-out wrong.
        The jury also found Steven Hammond guilty of committing a second arson in 2006. That summer, BLM firefighters were battling several significant fires caused by lightning strikes. The Harney County Fire Marshal imposed a burn ban and a “red flag” warning was in effect. Despite the burn ban, and knowing that firefighters were in the area, Steven Hammond set fires at night without notifying anyone. He did so to save his winter feed. After seeing the fires, the firefighters moved to a safer location. When confronted by a firefighter the next day, Steven Hammond admitted setting the fires, and made no apology for doing so.
        The crimes that the jury found the Hammonds committed carried five-year congressionally-mandated minimum sentences. In October 2012, U.S. District Court Judge Michael R. Hogan imposed sentences below what the law required. The U.S. Attorney’s Office appealed the sentences imposed by Judge Hogan because they were not the sentences mandated by Congress for the crimes committed. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, and reversed the Hammonds’ sentences. The cases were sent back to the District Court with the directive that the statute’s mandate be followed. The Supreme Court upheld the Ninth Circuit’s decision, and in October 2015, Chief Judge Ann Aiken imposed the five-year prison terms. The U.S. Attorney agreed to allow the Hammonds to self-surrender after the holidays.
        Much has been said and written by persons who were not in the Pendleton courtroom during the trial or in Eugene during the sentencing hearings. Much of it is inaccurate. For example, the federal prosecutor has never called the Hammonds terrorists, an allegation made by some of the Hammonds’ supporters. As Acting U.S. Attorney, I do not consider them to be terrorists. At the sentencing hearings, the federal prosecutor described the Hammonds’ contributions to their community and urged the court not to impose the higher sentences recommended by the U.S. Probation office. The prosecutor also assured the court that the sentences mandated by Congress were neither cruel nor unusual given the seriousness of the crimes and the safety threat posed to the hunters (in 2001) and the firefighters (in 2006). The Hammonds received a fair trial, they were found guilty in Pendleton, Oregon, by a jury of their peers, and they ultimately received lawful sentences mandated by Congress.
        As Americans, we have the privilege of being served by the finest judicial system in the world. Despite suggestions to the contrary, what took place during this case was a process that followed the time-honored fundamental principles of the rule of law— from the investigation, negotiations, a public trial with the presentation of lawfully admitted evidence, the jury’s findings, judicial findings, appellate rulings, to the final imposition of sentence. We stand by the ultimate resolution of this case.

        • avatar skyrim says:

          Thanks Ralph…

        • avatar Mal Adapted says:

          Sounds like Steve Hammond was filled with the arrogance of someone who’s gotten away with flouting the law so long he thought he was above it. Too bad all crooked welfare ranchers aren’t that conspicuously stupid, so we could put them in jail with Steve.

      • avatar Jay says:

        “…ambushed and killed…”

        Nice threat of murder…you should be in jail with the Hammonds.

      • avatar Mal Adapted says:

        Heh. marhlfld couldn’t be more wrong, but at least he’s sure! “Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge” as Charlie Darwin said, in an early formulation of the Dunning-Kruger effect 8^D!

      • avatar dhogaza says:

        “Malheur is NOT federally owned. It is federally managed by agreement with the state. The state can withdraw its contract at anytime.”

        No, it has Never belonged to the state of Oregon.

    • avatar Nancy says:

      “It’s time we set aside wildlife refuges for the wildlife”

      + 1 Mark.

      Some other examples of livestock grazing on refuges:

      “The National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997 includes the nation’s broadest statutory commitment to ecosystem protection: to “ensure that the biological integrity, diversity, and environmental health of the system are maintained.

      A 1990 legal settlement to review and end incompatible economic and recreational uses on national wildlife refuges—including grazing, farming, and motorized recreation—prompted Congress to enact the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997 (NWRSIA), the only organic legislation concerning federal lands to be enacted since the 1970s. The act’s novel ecological mandate builds on a century of science-based management aimed at making the refuges the nation’s premier conservation reserve system”

      A good abstract but it seems little head way has been made due to budget constraints and decades of thinking livestock grazing, somehow benefits refuges:

    • avatar Elk375 says:

      Marc and Nancy:

      “It’s time we set aside wildlife refuges for the wildlife.”

      The role of the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, often called the Duck Stamp, has been instrumental in securing some of the most valuable habitat at Malheur NWR. A major portion of the refuge was acquired through investment of Duck Stamp dollars, put into the federal Migratory Bird Conservation Fund (MBCF). About 48,000 of the current 187,000+ acres of the refuge have been secured via MBCF/Stamp dollars, through willing sellers. That’s just over a quarter (25.8%) of the refuge.

      Over 25% of the acreage and some of the most valuable lands were purchased with hunter’s money and now we have those who want to kick off the hunters. Without that money many thousands of acres of wildlife lands would not be available today. With today’s land prices it is difficult to acquire land of any size.

      Several years ago a person posted on this forum about there disappointment during there fall visit to the Lee Metcalf Wildlife refuge in the Bitterroot Valley due to hunters shooting ducks during there visit. Research indicates that in the early 60’s duck stamp money was used to purchase the 3,000 plus refuge acres. Today, those 3,000 acres along the Bitterroot River would be worth between 15 to 20 million dollars. Thanks duck hunters.

      • avatar Nancy says:

        From what I understand Elk, Duck Stamps were and still are a requirement to hunt waterfowl.

        A good read/excellent comments:

      • avatar Outdoorfunnut says:

        Good post ELK375

        I commend groups like DU that cross the isle and work well with ranchers getting things done outside the courtroom.

        • avatar Barb Rupers says:

          Thanks for the link, ODFN.
          However, it doesn’t seem they worked with the rancher other than buying his property. They got rid of the cattle and are manipulating the land so it is closer to its original condition.

      • avatar Mal Adapted says:

        When Elk375 is right, he’s right. The money hunters have paid to enjoy their hobby has helped protect much land for other uses as well. There’s plenty of scope for ambivalence within that, though.

        As an ecocentrist, I personally have no moral/ethical objection to the idea of sport hunting. OTOH, management of public land to maximize populations of game species often conflicts with broader conservation goals, as when hunters exert pressure on agencies to “control” predators.

        Hunters argue that they’re paying for predator control, and presumably they’d reduce their spending if they weren’t getting their moneys’ worth. If only predator-control activities were affected that would be perfectly acceptable to me, but I’m pretty sure the fiscal and political impact on public-land management would be wider than that. Hunters can still be valuable allies for conservationists, and I’m reluctant to risk that. Like I said, plenty of scope for ambivalence 8^}.

      • Once again, a hunter spewing his/her rhetoric about the “hunters paying for wildlife conservation” which is a lie, which even the animal killers know. Hunters not only kill, maim and harass wildlife, but it actually costs us taxpayers money to fund their dirty, destructive addiction: Of the millions of gun owners in the U.S., only a quarter of these are hunters, (and this number is decreasing every year. Yet, every gun owner must pay the mandated excise tax by congress, when they purchase a gun. This money then goes to help fund state hunting education programs. Consequently, gun owners who do not hunt are unknowingly supporting & perpetuating hunting and “game management” –another word for hunting and trapping, of wildlife.
        Another subsidized hunting scheme is that many states receive funding from the ESA, from state general funds, penalties paid by poachers, the sale of “environmental” license plates, & from voluntary check-offs, which benefit The Killing Machine.
        And, let’s not forget that taxpayer-funded Wildlife “refuges” are open to hunters, thereby subsidizing their killing activities. And, what about the time, energy and personnel it takes to “regulate” all of this slaughter, not to mention the clean up after the hunts–hunters are notorious for leaving the Killing Fields trashed, and often desecrated. This whole scheme was created in the early 1900’s and hunter/trappers (trapping is just another form of hunting)have had a free ride off the backs of innocent animals–and us taxpayers as well.
        Finally, Wildlife “Refuges” have been exposed for what they are: not any refuge at all for the poor unarmed wild animals. Increasingly, people comment that these so-called “Refuges” are another form of “game farm” for men & women who have to get their kicks by killing and maiming.

        Hunters: Hunt Each Other–Leave the Animals Alone!

        • avatar Mal Adapted says:

          Rosemary Lowe, it sounds like you see no scope for ambivalence whatsoever 8^).

          Speaking for myself, the older I get the less sure I am about most things. I’ve come to realize that no choice is as simple as I used to think it was.

          My own moral compass still points to the overall goal of conserving biodiversity in my home ecoregion at ascending scales, but when I make political choices now, I make them on the margin: will one option help conserve biodiversity more or less than the others? That means I have to think each option through and take into account every ramification. And realistically, every available option requires me to make a compromise I’d rather not make.

          It’s harder for me to reach decisions now, but when I do I’m more confident they’re the correct ones. I’ve had to let go of 100% confidence in any decision, though. And I’m more pessimistic than ever about the future of biodiversity at every scale.

          Sigh. Don’t get old if you can avoid it, is my advice. Die young, stay pretty, avoid having to make tough choices 8^}.

  8. avatar Kevin Jamison says:

    I think a golden opportunity will have been wasted if those of us who hate to see the destruction caused by grazing, including all those who were made more and/or newly aware of the welfare ranching disgrace by the Bundy farce don’t begin making their opinions about it known to Congress and the agencies involved. Ranchers scream to high heaven about anything that cuts into their cushy situations; it’s time for Congress to hear from the much more numerous voters who oppose these handouts that destroy the commons. I hate cows and don’t want them on “my” public lands. I use it I don’t abuse it. It’s time for Congress to hear from us. Write, call, send emails.

    • avatar Mal Adapted says:


      Your idea is a good one, and I hope Wildlife News readers follow through on it. Early in the MNWR occupation, Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) sent a letter to the US Attorney General, calling for the laws protecting our public lands to be vigorously enforced:

      Armed Extremists At Malheur National Wildlife Refuge Must Be Prosecuted

      Sen. Heinrich is also on record opposing recent legislative attempts to transfer federal land into state (and ultimately private) hands.

      I contacted New Mexico’s other Senator and my Congressman, making it clear that I consider the “highest and best use” of our public lands to be as ecological refugia, and urging them to follow Sen. Heinrich’s example. I’m on an email list for a NM-wide conservation group, and I know other members have contacted our legislators as well.

      IN ADDITION, I urge readers to donate money to Western Watersheds Project, which I consider the most effective conservation organization now working to end welfare ranching. Other worthy recipients of our donations include the Center for Biodiversity, The Oregon Natural Desert Association, and WildEarth Guardians.

      On day 15 of the occupation I donated $150 to WWP, and announced that on multiple newspaper comment threads. In my announcement, I pledged to donate another $10 every day until MNWR was firmly back in public hands. I wanted the seditionists to know that by holding out, they were helping to make one of their most powerful opponents stronger. I’ve kept my pledge through today, and announced that in comments to new articles on the occupation as they appeared. I’ve gotten several positive responses (in addition to the inevitable screeching by haters of government and/or conservationism), and lots of “likes”.

      Hard to say how much good I’m really doing, but at least it makes me feel like I’m doing something 8^}!

      • avatar Elk375 says:

        Mal Adapted

        The definition of the Highest and Best Use is:

        the most probable use of land or improved property that is legally possible, physically possible, financially feasible (and appropriately supportable) from the market, and which results in maximum profitability.

        Use a different definition.

        • avatar Mal Adapted says:

          Elk375, my quotes around that phrase were to indicate figurative use. Having studied land and environmental economics, I feel it’s appropriate for what I wanted to convey. Thanks for your concern, but I’ll stick with it.

      • avatar Marc Bedner says:

        Sen. Heinrich has long campaigned for increased hunter access to federal lands, notably in his “Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Bill.” He is understandably concerned when the Malheur occupiers spotlight an alternative way of achieving his goal.

  9. avatar Kevin Jamison says:

    Malheur Mal, thanks for bring up WWP. Very important aspect here. They fight and they win. A very impressive group of sharp, dedicated attorneys and many others, who could be making substantially larger fees and salary, who do it because they see the problem and know they can do something about it and are dedicated to winning as many cases as they can stomach. I imagine this stuff gets real old fast, constantly arguing and debating misinformed, hot tempered zealots and dummies who talk loudly and often about their Rights.
    The call of the mountains and wildlife must be why the WWP staff keep on plugging.
    They also have to keep the lights on too, so most assuredly a generous donation, recurring, would be a great lift up towards a sane Public Lands culture.
    I started doing what I can back in 1995, and have most years since. Click on the WWP link above and kick in, you’ll be glad you did when they win the next one!

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February 2016
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‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey

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