Fed workers are good neighbors


Some were hoping that the Malheur occupation would fizzle out on its own, but the continuing rhetoric from the criminals made it seem they did not intend to leave peacefully (“Inside the Sagebrush Insurgency,” HCN, 2/2/16).

I know a little about national wildlife refuges. I worked for the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service for almost 35 years. From 1984 to 1994, I was the regional supervisor for all the refuges in Oregon, Washington and Idaho, including Malheur. Many are located in rural areas, in that part of the West where it seems like there is a hate-the-government gene in the community DNA. The undercurrent of feelings that “things would be better if the feds weren’t here” can make both refuge managers and refuge neighbors uncomfortable, but in most cases it can’t even be called animosity. It’s just how things are.

The relationship between Harney County and the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is typical of how things have worked out over the years. Despite philosophical differences, most refuge people have become good neighbors to their neighbors. Their kids have gone to local schools, the families have attended local churches, they have shopped locally and supported local charities. When there have been issues with refuge neighbors, they have looked for solutions. Good faith discussions on both sides have usually led to a semi-comfortable “agree to disagree” conclusion.

Throughout my life and career, I have been a peacemaker and negotiator, but there was nothing to “negotiate” here. Armed terrorism is armed terrorism, no matter where it occurs or who is involved.

Sanford Wilbur
Gresham, Oregon


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