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Northwest Volunteers Want To Help Restore Malheur Refuge

Amelia Templeton

Oregon conservation groups say volunteers are lining up to help reverse damage done to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge during the ongoing occupation.  

At the end of January, the Oregon Natural Desert Association put out a call for volunteers interested in doing environmental restoration at the refuge after the occupation is over. In just a week, more than 600 people from all over the Northwest have signed up.  

“We very much want to support refuge managers in whatever efforts it will take to restore the natural resources or infrastructure at the refuge,” said ONDA Conservation Director Dan Morse.    

The group had one fence repair work trip previously planned, but is working to add more.    

“So in time, we’ll be coordinating with those folks so that our volunteers can be put to the best use,” said Morse. 

The extent of damage to the refuge is still unclear, but the armed occupiers have created a new road, expanded a parking lot, dug trenches and removed fencing.  

“I think there’s a great opportunity to get people together around a shared interest, and better understanding of how our public lands work,” Morse said.

Other groups are also starting to mobilize volunteers around the occupation.  

“There’s a lot of people saying, ‘OK, what’s next?’” said Arran Robertson of Oregon Wild. “People want to do something positive. They want to express their love for Malheur.”  

Robertson said Oregon Wild has seen a higher level of interest from the public recently, including people who have never interacted with the conservation group previously.  

Not only has the Malheur occupation energized potential volunteers, Robertson said it has also brought conservation groups together in a way that no previous issues have.  

“It’s galvanized cooperation throughout the conservation community,” he said.  

Morse said no additional volunteer trips will be planned until after the occupation and subsequent investigation ends. Then refuge managers will require time to assess the damage before knowing what kinds of help are needed.

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