Below is a letter from the National Wildlife Refuge Association and the Friends of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge to our friends and colleagues at the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
To the Employees of the United States Fish & Wildlife Service:
The National Wildlife Refuge Association and the Friends of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge support you, the public servants who have dedicated your lives to conserving, enhancing, and restoring our natural resources. We share your frustration and concern about the current situation at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Like you, we wish to see this conflict resolved peacefully and quickly.
However, we also understand that there is a lot we do not know about the situation and the considerations that law enforcement professionals are managing. While this is frustrating, our first concern is for the safety of Service staff and their families, along with the nearby community.
As this plays out, we all must contemplate what we as public land stewards can do to address the underlying issues that played a role in creating this standoff. But just as importantly, we must speak up about the great progress that has been made at Malheur and other refuges to resolve conflicts and improve the collaborative spirit of our conservation efforts.
While we acknowledge current conservation and collaborative efforts are far from perfect, we also strive to improve the quality of our partnerships with ranchers, farmers, business interests, and private landowners. With each new partnership, we gain opportunities to learn how to better existing and future conservation efforts. As many of you know, successful conservation requires strong partnerships, and the foundation of these partnerships is based on trust, honesty, and collaboration.
Public lands are sacred. These lands consist of the rivers where veterans fly fish to assist in the healing process from PTSD, the marshes where a dad takes his son or daughter hunting for the first time, the coastal prairies where birdwatchers catch their first glimpse of an Aplomado Falcon, the open grasslands that become a child’s first memory of an outdoor classroom, and the lands where ranchers teach their children about the history of responsible land stewardship. They are lands that provide a place of solace and safety for everyone. They also contribute to thriving local communities.
Let’s not allow the unlawful acts of a small group of angry individuals impede the progress that thousands of employees at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service continue to make to sustain healthy lands, waters, and wildlife in collaboration with ranchers, farmers and other community members across this nation.
The time has come for this conflict at Malheur to end, and we at the National Wildlife Refuge Association and the Friends of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge intend to urge leaders in Congress and the Administration to resolve this standoff quickly and bring those responsible to justice.
Your experiences in the field working in collaboration with ranchers, farmers, sportsmen and environmentalists are testament to the fact that the National Wildlife Refuge System is a big tent with room for all Americans. Help us share these success stories to help drown out the noise coming from a small minority.
We posted this letter on the National Wildlife Refuge Association blog so that you can share your collaborative conservation story in the comments. We want to show the American public what collaborative conservation is all about!
On behalf of our respective staffs and boards, and the thousands of refuge supporters we represent, thank you for your service.
David Houghton, President and Rebecca Rubin, Board Chair, National Wildlife Refuge Association
Tim Blount, Executive Director and Gary Ivey, President, Friends of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge