The headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge could remain closed for the rest of the year. It’s been closed since the armed occupation in January.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is installing security upgrades at the refuge headquarters and visitor center, and says the work could take until early next spring.
The upcoming trial of eight defendants who occupied the headquarters, including Ammon and Ryan Bundy, is creating additional interest in the refuge.
Jason Holm, spokesman for the Pacific Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, says federal and local law enforcement regularly brief the agency on security concerns.
“I don’t know that anyone has the latitude anymore to just brush off what in previous years or previous eras might have seemed like bluster. We take all of these things seriously now,” Holm said.
Roads and wetlands at the refuge remain open to visitors. Fall is a prime time to watch sandhill cranes that stop in Oregon during their migration south, and the agency is encouraging people to visit.
“Do it,” Holm said. “Please continue to go there and check birds off your life list. And then, rather than heading into the visitor center, head into Burns, eat at a local restaurant, and provide some boost to their economy as well.”