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West Obsessed: Behind the Malheur occupation

Our editors discuss the lead-up to the stand-off in Oregon.


Long before the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge became a fantastic media event, High Country News was following a smaller controversy, in nearby Burns, Oregon, over ranching. In this episode of “West Obsessed,” we discuss the public land issues that preceded the occupation at Malheur. We go behind the scenes with our photographer and associate designer, Brooke Warren, who spent the first evening of the occupation with the men who seized the refuge, and we discuss the deeper issues behind the occupation with our online editor, Tay Wiles, who has been following the latest iteration of the Sagebrush Rebellion.

“West Obsessed” is an occasional audio series produced in collaboration with KVNF community radio in Paonia, Colorado, where the editors and writers of High Country News discuss stories about the American West and why they matter.

A truck blocks the road to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters as armed men stand guard around a fire. This was the first thing photographer Brooke Warren saw after arriving at the Oregon occupation on Saturday, Jan. 2.
Brooke Warren