More than 100 bird-watchers flocked to the Capitol today to protest the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon, waving signs with slogans including, “Keep public land public,” “Bobolinks, not Bullies” and “Bundys, Time to Migrate – to Jail!”
Nancy DeWitt showed off the high-tech binoculars she wore strapped to her side, announcing with a grin, “We’re open carrying!” She said, “I love Malheur, and I plan to go birding there in March for the first time in many years, because I’ve been living in Alaska. I’m very mad these criminals have taken it over.”
Kristin Reuther, a senior attorney with Western Watersheds Project, said, “We’re just showing our frustration at this ridiculous situation. We love Malheur – it’s a gem for biodiversity, birds and wildlife. A lot of us here have been there. It’s a really popular birding location for people in Boise, especially in spring.” DeWitt said she heard about the rally from an Idaho birding Facebook site and from the Golden Eagle Audubon Society.
Similar rallies were held today in several surrounding states. “I’ve been a birder for years,” said Matt Dunn of Boise. “I’m also a strong supporter of our public lands. … I think they’re a great American idea. I think taking them hostage is un-American. They’re for all of us, not just some of us.”
The Boise rally was organized by Western Watersheds and the Boise chapter of Great Old Broads for Wilderness, along with other groups; organizers were thrilled with the turnout. Reuther said, “We stand with Malheur – we condemn the armed occupation.”
The rally contrasted with statements last week from three Idaho lawmakers, Reps. Sage Dixon, R-Ponderay; Heather Scott, R-Blanchard; and Judy Boyle, R-Midvale; who visited the armed protesters at the refuge, along with officials in the area, and reported that they felt the protesters’ concerns weren’t being heard.