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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spin Control

OPB has in-depth look at GOP lawmakers visit to refuge take-over

Oregon Public Broadcasting has an in-depth look at the visit that state Rep. Matt Shea and other Republican legislators made to the armed occupation of the Malheur Federal Wildlife Refuge in early January.

Accompanying the story is a tape of a meeting  between the Coalition of Western States  and local officials that reveals the concerns government and law enforcement had. They urged the visitors to go home and  not go to the refuge. It's more than an hour in duration, but it's a good listen. 

Along with legislators from Idaho, Oregon and Nevada, Shea sat down with local government and law enforcement officials and a representative of the FBI. At one point, the local county official, Steve Grasty, calls the occupiers criminals, at another "terrorists." When Nevada Rep. Michelle Fiore tries to defend the head of the occupier group, Ammon Bundy, as a frustrated rancher, Grasty says he's a used truck salesman. When she describes the legal battle of two local residents that led up to the occupation, he not too politely tells her she doesn't know what she's talking about.

The full tape is nearly an hour and 10 minutes, and tempers occasionally flare. But Shea usually comes off as the calmest member of COWS present, and is sometimes the person who tries to bring the temperature in the room down.

At about 12:50, he says the purpose of the COWS group is to get a peaceful resolution and save lives.

At about 28:17 he asks what federal laws have been broken.

At 46:30, as a discussion about alleged abuses of the Bureau of Land Management begins to get heated, Shea interjects that people in other states also feel frustrated and hopeless that they might try something similar. The legislators need to get the occupiers to go home and start a dialog with other people and everyone needs to seek a state and federal solution.

At 56:20, he tells local officials it could be years before there's a solution to the dispute over federal lands, and people need a template on how to approach state and federal legislators.

Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981 and retired in 2021. He is currently the political and state government correspondent covering Washington state.

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