Conservation efforts continue at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge despite armed occupation

Posted at 9:49 PM, Oct 17, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-18 05:52:56-04
Back in 1908, President Teddy Roosevelt set aside unclaimed government land in Eastern Oregon as a preserve and breeding ground for native birds.
"Back during that time an ounce of plume (bird feathers) was worth more than an ounce of gold, so the bird populations were being over harvested. Teddy Roosevelt set aside that as the first portion of the refuge," explained Chad Karges, Manager of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
Since its designation more than 100 years ago, several thousand acres have been added to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and now it encompasses more than 187,000 acres. 
"The primary purpose for the refuge is to provide a breeding resting area for migratory birds and other wildlife," said Karges. 
According to officials, the refuge serves as one of the most important spring stopovers for migratory birds in the western United States.
"It serves kind of a roll like Denver International Airport so you have migratory birds coming from the south during the spring migration and they come into this basin and they stage," said Karges. "They will be here for a few weeks feeding and resting before they move on."
During the armed occupation at the refuge in which dozens of men and women took over the headquarters, trenches were dug on the land, explosives were placed, and fences were taken down. Officials say the long-term effects are still unclear, but they said thanks to the national attention placed on the refuge, they've seen an increase in visitation. 
While the headquarters remain closed, the effects on visitors to the refuge are limited. 
 "Whoever is visiting the refuge, they should really not be experiencing any impact," said Karges.
Officials say they are working hard to get the headquarters up and running again, but as of now, they can't say exactly when that will be.