Tuesday, January 05, 2016

On the establishment of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge

There is some inaccurate or incomplete information floating around on this topic. Below is the E.O. by President Roosevelt creating the original preserve:

It is hereby ordered that all smallest legal subdivisions which touch the shoreline of Lakes Malheur and Harney and the streams and waters connecting these lakes in township twenty-five south, ranges thirty-two, thirty-two and one-half and thirty-three; township twenty-six south, ranges twenty-nine, thirty, thirty-one, thirty-two and thirty-three; township twenty-seven south, ranges twenty-nine, twenty-nine and one-half, thirty and thirty-two, all east of the Willamette Meridian, Oregon, together with all islands and unsurveyed lands situated within the meander lines of said lakes and connecting waters, as segregated by the broken line shown upon the diagram hereto attached and made a part of this Order, are hereby reserved, subject to valid existing rights, and set aside for the use of the Department of Agriculture as a preserve and breeding-ground for native birds. The taking or destruction of birds' eggs and nests, and the taking or killing of any species of native bird for any purpose whatsoever, except under such rules and regulations as may be prescribed by the Secretary of Agriculture, is prohibited, and warning is expressly given to all persons not to commit within the reserved territory any of the acts hereby enjoined. This reserve to be known as Lake Malheur Reservation.
Signature of Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt.
The White House,
August 18, 1908.

Lake Malheur Reservation EO 929 illustration.jpg

That order was preceded by an order of President U.S. Grant of Sept. 12, 1872, which created the 1.8 million acre Malheur Indian Reservation (I've been unable to find a copy of that EO on the 'net). According to Wikipedia, that order was "discontinued" in 1879:

The Malheur Indian Reservation was an Indian reservation established for the Northern Paiute in eastern Oregon and northern Nevada from 1872 to 1879. The federal government "discontinued" the reservation after the Bannock War of 1878, under pressure from European-American settlers who wanted the land, a negative recommendation against continuing it by its agent William V. Rinehart, the internment of more than 500 Paiute on the Yakama Indian Reservation, and reluctance of the Bannock and Paiute to return to the lands after the war.

Currently, according to the USFWS, the refuge contains 187,757 acres, and underwent significant expansions in 1935 and 1942:

The 65,000 acre Blitzen Valley was purchased in 1935 and added to the refuge to secure water rights for Malheur and Mud Lake. With the creation of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in 1933, the refuge was able to use this additional manpower in 1935 to begin major improvements on the refuge. The CCC constructed most of the infrastructure in the Blitzen Valley including the Center Patrol Road which travels through the center of the refuge. The 14,000 acre Double-O unit was added to the refuge in 1942 and provides important shorebird habitat, as well as waterfowl nesting areas.

That's all I have for now. Would welcome any additions or clarifications.

1 comment:

Floyd said...

The statement "subject to valid existing rights" is the savings clause that is found in most federal statutes and is the clause most likely to be ignored by federal officials. In this case the valid existing rights that belong to the Hammonds included water rights and rights of way for conveyance of the water (RS2339) as well as established easements and rights of way for travel by livestock and people.
Other ranches "sold" themselves to the federal government starting apparently during the Great Depression and the FWS ended up with ownership of water rights. That story clearly indicates that the declaration of a refuge that was dependent on water in the lakes was not enough to establish federal control of the water as a property subject to state law --- so they bought what would be sold and bullied their way into possession of the rest.