Sunday, April 03, 2016

Incidents reported at 13 other refuges during Oregon occupation; $6 million in expenses

Federal authorities logged 30 incidents of threatening behavior, vandalism and other acts at 13 wildlife refuges in the west while armed militants held the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, according to a new report. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which manages the bird sanctuary southeast of Burns, deployed 150 law enforcement officers to increase security at 63 agency properties in 15 states. That cost the federal agency $2.2 million, contributing to an estimated $6 million in expenses related to the 41-day occupation. Details about the other threats and security costs were contained in a four-page summary of the wildlife agency's response to the occupation released this week to The Oregonian/OregonLive. The wildlife service report said that costs are still mounting for the occupation. Besides the extra security, the agency spent $2.2 million on direct occupation expenses and $1.7 million on repairs. It hasn't yet estimated the cost of restoring ancestral tribal grounds damaged during the occupation. Supporters of the ;occupiers this week contested the damage claims, asserting in four news conferences in western states that the occupiers didn't cause the damage depicted in photos released by the wildlife agency last week. Two other federal agencies this week provided figures to The Oregonian/OregonLive about their costs during the occupation. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the federal government's chief land manager in Harney County, said that as of March 22, its costs totaled $1,026,482. That agency operates a district office in Hines, which was closed during the occupation. Spokeswoman Jody Weil said the agency spent $197,555 on additional law enforcement services and $828,927 for the salaries of those dealing with occupation issues, installing a perimeter fence at the Hines office, and for posting additional security at the office. She said agency employees also had to be escorted when they tended to the agency's wild horse corrals each day outside of Burns. The U.S. Forest Service also closed its Emigrant Creek Ranger District office in Hines because of the takeover, which the agency said cost $170,000 for salaries, temporary lodging and other charges. At the wildlife refuge, the headquarters compound about 30 miles outside Burns remains closed for repairs. The wildlife agency's report said its "Operation Western Support" was designed to protect agency properties in 15 states, providing security for sites that had only one or no law enforcement officers normally assigned. The agency has its own law enforcement staff of 255 officers. The agency report didn't identify the 13 refuges with the 30 incidents, and said there were another four incidents involving agency employees away from refuges. "Incidents included individuals approaching federal employees in a confrontational manner commenting on the death of a rancher in Oregon, and a vehicle traveling aggressively around a marked service vehicle for miles," the report said. "Vandalism was painted on refuge signs with messages regarding the need for federal employees to leave." The report provided little more detail than has been previously disclosed about the agency's $1.7 million tab to repair damage at the Oregon refuge...more

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