O’Mara: Acquittal in Armed Occupation Threatens Public Employees, Lands
WASHINGTON (Oct. 28, 2016) – A jury late Thursday acquitted participants in last January’s armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Collin O’Mara, the National Wildlife Federation’s president and CEO, released the following statement:
“This outcome is simply outrageous. All Americans watched in horror for nearly six weeks as domestic terrorists occupied one of America’s great national wildlife refuges by force and terrorized the refuge’s dedicated public servants, their families, and local residents. This was not a peaceful protest; this was occupation by gunpoint and it assaulted the very foundation of our democracy, our Constitutional principles, and our shared public lands heritage.
“These criminals prevented Americans from enjoying the wildlife that belong to all of us, destroyed refuge infrastructure, degraded wildlife habitat, and desecrated archaeological treasures. In a democracy, disagreements must be resolved through collaboration, debate or the courts, not by brute force. The danger is this decision will embolden vigilantes who take the law into their own hands and threaten the safety of the dedicated employees who manage our public lands. We stand with the women and men of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and strongly encourage the Department of Justice to appeal this decision if possible. We call upon Congress to stiffen the penalties for illegal occupations of our public lands and strengthen protections for public servants managing them.”
Ammon and Ryan Bundy remain in federal custody pending their trial in Nevada for the armed standoff at ranch of their father, Cliven Bundy, in 2014.
At its annual meeting in June, the National Wildlife Federation recognized Chad Karges, Malheur manager, and his staff with a National Conservation Special Achievement Award. NWF honored the refuge staff for facing the volatile situation and defending our public lands with “unwavering professionalism.
The Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Ore., is part of a vital network of public lands that supports birds and other wildlife across North America. It is crucial stopover habitat for migrating birds and provides food, nesting and shelter for ducks, geese, sandhill cranes, coots, terns and pelicans. The refuge is also home to elk, antelope, mule deer, mountain lions and river otters.
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