The head of Harney County’s government says it’s time for federal law enforcement to increase pressure on the occupation at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
He joins a growing group of local and state leaders that are questioning the tactics of the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI.
Until now, Harney County Judge Steve Grasty has refrained from criticizing federal law enforcement for their passive approach to the situation at the refuge.
But he said Monday in an interview that it has now gone on long enough.
“They need to move, they need to make a decision," Grasty said. "Are they going to arrest these people? Are they going to blockade the facility?
"At least half of the angst in this community — and from outside the community — is why haven't they taken action? And I'm asking that question as well," Grasty said.
The occupation was fueled initially, at least in part, by dissatisfaction with federal government operations in Harney County.
Grasty pointed out that the FBI’s lack of action in this situation has only bolstered resentment toward the government.
“They prove the fact that sometimes the federal government doesn’t listen to small communities, and — dang it — that’s discouraging,” he said.
Federal officials have repeatedly stated that they've taken a measured approach to the occupation, which began Jan. 2, because they don't want to escalate the situation into a violent conflict
Grasty joins Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and Burns Paiute Tribal Chairwoman Charlotte Rodrique in urging a more rapid response to the situation.
Brown and Grasty both have said they spoke out despite federal authorities asking them to limit public comments on the situation.