BURNS — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will spend roughly $4 million to clean, repair and upgrade the Oregon wildlife refuge that was the site of a 41-day armed occupation by ranchers earlier this year.
Fish and Wildlife Director Dan Ashe said he wants the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Burns to become a symbol to the rest of the country that collaboration, not confrontation, endures, The Oregonian reported. Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell made similar statements during her visit to the refuge earlier this week.
Photos of the refuge shared by federal officials show that the ranchers left a mess inside the building.
The compound is undergoing a giant spring cleaning, with the use of industrial vacuums and cargo trailers filled with cleaning supplies. Repairing damage and removing debris is expected to take until early summer.
In all, the standoff will cost Fish and Wildlife about $6 million, with about $2 million spent during the takeover, including the costs of moving the refuge’s 17 employees out of town for safety to live at government expense in hotels for weeks, Ashe said.
Fish biologist Linda Beck said she’s glad to be back at work, but the biggest cost of the standoff was missed work. Beck and a team of biologists were planning to remove invasive carp by commercial fishing because the fish consume habitat needed by birds. At the beginning of the year, Malheur Lake covered about 3,000 acres. It has since grown to about 20,000 acres.
“We lost the opportunity to fish for these fish in a really condensed setting,” Beck said.