These bird-watching enthusiasts aren't afraid of the Oregon militiamen

The occupied Malheur National Wildlife Refuge
(Image credit: ROB KERR/AFP/Getty Images)

Before a bunch of anti-government ranchers took it over, the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge was known for its birds. With 320 different species fluttering over the area every year, the refuge is a world renowned spot for birders, Outside reports. And although the winter months are quiet at Malheur, birders are itching to get back to the refuge come spring — militiamen or no.

"Birders are angry," [Portland Audubon Society conversation director Bob Sallinger] said in a telephone interview, "and they should be, because we don't know what these guys are doing there. Going in with guns and trying to take over public lands to pursue their own agenda is a crime, and it ought to be prosecuted."The refuge, he said, is already understaffed, and the occupation will further delay important conservation work. The situation is particularly concerning for the Audubon Society, Mr. Sallinger said, because it fought to have the area protected more than 100 years ago. Images of slaughtered Malheur bird populations taken a century ago by the group's Oregon founder, William Finley, inspired Roosevelt to protect the place."Now it appears as though the goal of these occupiers is to eliminate this protection and undo that heritage," he said. [The New York Times]

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