BURNS, Ore. – As the FBI focuses on its criminal investigation at the national wildlife refuge taken over by an armed group, land managers must get ready to reopen the 300 square-mile area, which draws birdwatchers, anglers and hunters and is a key economic engine of the surrounding area.
Meanwhile, snow is melting and filling the untended irrigation canals at the refuge. Tourist groups are beginning to plan summer trips. Local business owners are wondering what their normally busy summer season will look like. Residents are wondering if the deep divisions in the community created by the 41-day standoff will leave lasting scars.
A group of armed protesters angry about federal land-use policy seized the southeastern Oregon property on Jan. 2, demanding the U.S. turn over public lands to locals and exposing simmering anger over the government's control of vast expanses of Western range. Several people have been arrested during the standoff, and one protester was shot and killed during a confrontation with police several miles from the refuge.
The last four holdouts at the refuge surrendered Feb. 11.