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Earl Blumenauer Decries Armed Occupation Of Malheur Refuge

Debate of an ongoing armed occupation at a wildlife refuge in Oregon reached the floor of Congress again Thursday.

A group of armed men took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters Saturday, following a protest in the city of Burns.  

Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-Portland) discusses the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Harney County.

Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-Portland) discusses the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Harney County.

Cliff Owen/AP

Portland Democrat Earl Blumenauer called the occupation an “odd drama” and a “sideshow,” as he criticized the actions of what he called “armed thugs.”  

“If these people had any argument with the president, it was with President (Theodore) Roosevelt, who 108 years ago established the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge as a response to protect national resource, especially the slaughter of wild birds for feathers to adorn women’s hats,” Blumenauer said on the House floor.

Blumenauer’s statements come two days after Oregon’s sole Republican representative took up the issue on the House floor. Congressman Greg Walden delivered a more nuanced message about the standoff in his district.

“Now, I’m not condoning this takeover in anyway. I want to make that clear,” he said. “I don’t think it’s appropriate.”

Walden said he’d rather the armed occupiers realize that they’ve made their case and go home. “But I understand and hear their anger,” said Walden.

Walden spoke about the frustrations of ranchers and rural citizens in Oregon, pointing to what he sees as mismanagement of the Steens Mountain Cooperative Management and Protection Area.

“I have seen what happens when overzealous bureaucrats and agencies go beyond the law and clamp down on people,” said Walden.

On Thursday, Harney County Sheriff David Ward met briefly with Ammon Bundy, one of the leaders of the group illegally occupying the refuge. Ward told Bundy that county residents want the group to leave. Bundy gave no indication that the group was going to leave and said their demands were being ignored.

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