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Birders And Businesses Fret Over Oregon's Malheur Refuge

Kay Steele
File photo of a great egret in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge

In east Oregon, Harney County has seen more tourists -- a lot of them Baby-Boomer birders. Now bird-watchers and business leaders alike are fretting over the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by an armed group.

The prime time for tourists to arrive -- like the birds -- is for the spring migration. But the armed occupiers at Malheur have said they plan to stay for a long time.

Tom Crabtree of Bend, Oregon, is an avid Malheur birder. He said if birders can’t use the refuge soon, it could hurt area business owners.

“We always stop at Safeway and pick up some cooking supplies, you know stop at hotels there and go down, we’ll eat in their restaurants, always buy gas,” he said.

The Harney County Chamber of Commerce said about 200 people usually participate in its three-day Migratory Bird Festival, held the second weekend of April. Birders can catch sightings from sandhill cranes to sage grouse.

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.