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Healing In Harney County

Harney County Sheriff David Ward listens to concerns during a community meeting at the county fairgrounds on Jan. 6, 2016.

Harney County Sheriff David Ward listens to concerns during a community meeting at the county fairgrounds on Jan. 6, 2016.

Rick Bowmer/AP

It’s been two months since armed occupiers left Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, and Think Out Loud wanted to check in with the people most affected—Harney County’s residents. We went to Harney County’s fairgrounds last Thursday to ask if healing is taking place, or if things are as divided as ever.

About 100 people came to the community meeting, and many spoke their minds throughout the hour. Here are a few examples:

 “We weren’t talking to each other enough. …I take blame for it as a leader in this community—we weren’t saying that enough. We’re doing a better job today of it.” —County Judge Steve Grasty

“It hurt me to see my friends going back and forth at each other throughout this thing. …I don’t think we’re ever going to have a utopian society, but I do believe that we can all do a better job of communicating with each other. It’d make my job easier.” —Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward 

“There’s a lot of good things going on in this community. There was an overall image of division and negative things that was presented by the media, and it was just frustrating to me.” —Chad Karges, manager at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge

“We’re trying to do some things different. We’re trying to do some things that we’ve done in the past—maybe do them better.” —Jeff Rose, associate district manager for the Bureau of Land Management

“I don’t think any of us ranchers have problems with our local BLM … That’s not what it’s about. But I think one thing that hopefully this will make people realize is that the grazing rights we have are actually rights- they’re not leases. We bought and purchased them with our ranch. —Erin Maupin, 5th generation rancher and former BLM employee

We also spoke with Burns Paiute tribal member Jarvis Kennedy. He felt unsafe speaking during the community meeting, so we sat down with him the following morning.


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