Oregon refuge manager: Takeover will drive some workers away

ESTES PARK, Colo. — About a third of the staff of an Oregon wildlife refuge that was taken over by armed protesters will probably leave their jobs because of the lingering effects of the occupation, the refuge manager said Thursday.

Some worry about being confronted by other protesters who sympathize with the anti-government group that took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge for 41 days earlier this year, manager Chad Karges said. Others are simply worn down by having to retell the story to others.

“If they’re a particular individual that struggles with these types of events, then having to repeat that story over and over and over is hard on them,” he said.

The refuge has a staff of 16, said Karges, who was in Colorado to accept an award from the National Wildlife Federation.

The National Wildlife Federation award praised Karges and his staff for building a good relationship with nearby residents long before the takeover. In an interview, Karges said the refuge staff has worked for years to involve residents in decision-making, and that was the reason most opposed the occupation.

“You didn’t see that community raise their hands and support the militia occupation. You saw them raise their hands and ask them to go home,” he said.

“Without that process, I’m convinced we would have had a different outcome,” Karges said. The occupation would have lasted longer, and some federal workers — including Karges — probably would have felt so unwelcome they wouldn’t have returned, he said.

The protesters wanted the federal government to relinquish control of Western lands and free two imprisoned Oregon ranchers. They eventually surrendered and now face federal charges, but one — Robert “LaVoy” Finicim — was fatally shot by officers.

In Portland, Oregon, on Thursday, 42-year-old Jason Blomgren pleaded guilty to a federal conspiracy charge related to the occupation.

Blomgren, of Murphy, North Carolina, traveled across the country to join the protesters. He told a judge he served as an armed guard.

In exchange for his plea, prosecutors dismissed a charge of possessing a firearm in a federal facility. Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 14. Prosecutors recommend six months of home detention.

Karges said workers finished repairing damage caused by the occupiers on Wednesday. The next step is deciding on new security measures. He said that could include surveillance cameras and gates but he declined to offer specifics.

Crews have caught up on maintenance they couldn’t do during the occupation, but some wildlife-management work was thrown permanently behind, Karges said.

“Biological activities, when you miss the window, you miss the window,” he said. “It’s not there again for a long time. Those things you can’t catch up on.”

Talk to us

More in Local News

Possible rare ‘seven-armed octopus’ found on Whidbey beach

Scientists from across the nation believe it’s most likely a specimen of Haliphron atlanticus.

Gold Bar ex-councilman gets federal prison for child porn

Brian Diaz, a pharmacist and genetic researcher, is still awaiting trial for possession of methamphetamine.

Rain and wind wash away much of the smoke, but be cautious

The air was expected to be potentially hazardous in most areas of Snohomish County until Saturday morning.

Cruisin’ on a Saturday afternoon ‘was pretty innocent fun’

Vintage cars wowed neighbors in north Everett. Organizer hopes Cruzin’ to Colby will be back in 2021.

Elementary students are preparing to return to classrooms

Stanwood is already teaching kindergartners on campus. Sultan and Arlington will soon follow suit.

Police: Multi-county chase ends when suspect rams patrol car

Sheriff’s deputies initially responded to reports of a vehicle theft and hit-and-runs in Lynnwood.

Teenagers charged in trio of robberies in Snohomish County

They allegedly stole cash, cigarettes and marijuana from shops in Everett, Lynnwood and Bothell.

Don’t miss out on up to $1,800 in unemployment back pay

The state says its ready to send out payments from a federal program. Certification is due Sunday.

Most Read