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Audubon Society of Portland Statement on the Verdict in the Malheur Occupation Case

Audubon Society of Portland is deeply disappointed by the jury’s verdict in the case of seven defendants who occupied Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in early 2016. We respect the legal process, but believe that the armed occupation of public lands, which included destruction of public property and disturbance of Native American archaeological sites, should have resulted in substantial penalties.

October 28, 2016

Audubon Society of Portland is deeply disappointed by the jury’s verdict in the case of seven defendants who occupied Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in early 2016. We respect the legal process, but believe that the armed occupation of public lands, which included destruction of public property and disturbance of Native American archaeological sites, should have resulted in substantial penalties. Important restoration work on these public lands was disrupted, federal employees were intimidated, and today — more than ten months after the occupation — the public is still not able to access refuge headquarters. Taxpayers have been left with a bill that is expected to exceed $6 million. Regardless of the verdict, the occupation of Malheur remains an attack on public lands and resources.

We also cannot ignore the disparities in the manner in which armed occupiers of public lands at Malheur were handled relative to the current treatment of unarmed Native American-led Dakota Access Pipeline protests on their own lands at Standing Rock. The two situations reveal deeply troubling inequities.

Audubon Society of Portland greatly appreciates the work of public employees who staff Malheur and other public lands. Public servants should not face the risk of armed intimidation simply for doing their jobs. The verdict in the Malheur case will put public employees at greater risk of intimidation in the future.  Audubon Society of Portland also greatly appreciates the community in Harney County, which largely rejected the illegal armed occupation as a way to resolve conflict.

We are still processing the verdict in the Malheur Case, but today we are committed to three paths forward. First, Portland Audubon remains committed to the collaborative process at Malheur, which started long before the occupation, continued during the occupation, and continues to this day. We look forward to continuing to work with the community, the refuge, the Burns Paiute Tribe and other conservation groups to move forward on areas of consensus and to peacefully and respectfully resolve areas of disagreement. Second, we remain steadfastly committed to protecting our public lands on the ground and in the court system. Our public lands are national treasures and they belong to us all. Third, we call on Oregon’s congressional delegation to lead legislative efforts which will ensure that there is adequate legal protection so that public lands, public employees and public access are not threatened by armed extremists.

Audubon Society of Portland’s history with Malheur dates back to our founding in 1902. October 27 was a dark day in the history of Malheur and of our public lands, but we remain confident that the outstanding collaborative processes at Malheur and America’s love and appreciation for public lands, will continue to light a path forward.

For more information about Portland Audubon’s position on Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, contact Conservation Director, Bob Sallinger, at 503 380-9728 or bsallinger@audubonportland.org.

Malheur Rally
People gather to rally against the occupation of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and support public lands.
 
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