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Oregon's Jeweled Malheur Has Been Tussled Over For Centuries

Malheur National Wildlife Refuge
File photo of Malheur Lake within the Malheur National WIldlife Refuge.

Native American tribes, cattle barons, trappers, farmers and wildlife advocates have all fought over what’s now known as Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon for centuries.

The armed group currently occupying Malheur is just the latest posse with a plan and a claim on the remote spot.

Nancy Langston wrote a book on the sensitive area’s complicated ecology and history. She said Malheur is one of the few remaining inland wetlands protected for a staggering variety of birds and wildlife.

“There’s been so much intense development -- especially in California and particularly for agriculture, rice for example, and pretty intense droughts down in California that these wildlife refuges have become extraordinarily important,” Langston said.

Langston said under different regimes the Malheur’s waterways and lands have been diked, drained down for irrigation, used for cattle watering and grazing, and even planted with invasive non-native carp.

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.