Two Washington state representatives were among a delegation of western legislators that traveled to eastern Oregon, where protesters have taken over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in an armed occupation.
Two Washington state representatives were among a delegation of western legislators that traveled over the weekend to eastern Oregon, where protesters have taken over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in an armed occupation.
Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley, and Graham Hunt, R-Orting, were part of the delegation that met with local officials as well as protesters who seek to return the refuge — as well many other federal lands — to local control.
Spokesmen for both Shea and Hunt said lawmakers were invited to join the delegation by Oregon legislators. They went there at their own expense, and were back in time for the start of the Washington state legislative session on Monday.
John Sattgast, a spokesman for Shea, referred to the trip as a fact-finding mission, but said it was premature to say what they had found.
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Three Idaho legislators who joined in the delegation released a statement that included an account of a cool reception they received from county officials.
“We were cautioned about proceeding out to the refuge for various reasons but were not prohibited from going. One county official was visibly hostile toward our presence and used very inflammatory language about our participation,” said the statement released by Idaho legislators Judy Boyle, Heather Scott, and Sage Dixon.
The occupation of the refuge is now in its second week. The protesters say their action reflects their grievances over the federal prosecution of two eastern Oregon ranchers on arson charges and broader opposition to federal land-management policies in the West.
Protesters have been examining federal files at the refuge headquarters.
On Tuesday, U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials contacted ranchers who hold grazing permits there to caution them that their documents may have been accessed.
“We are taking steps necessary to ensure our employees are safe, and we currently are reaching out to landowners who may have records on the refuge,” said Jason Holm, a spokesman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Portland.