Approximately $4 million is needed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to clean, upgrade and restore the Oregon wildlife refuge occupied for a month by protesters earlier this year.
The agency posted several photos of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Burns, giving a sneak peek of the damage and mess left by the armed protesters, who were against the federal government's management of public lands.
'Out of Character'
Federal officials released photos that showed clothes scattered about in one room, chairs in an office were knocked over, and occupiers had left large holes in walls.
Officials also found alcohol bottles everywhere, including a bottle of whiskey tucked between couch cushions.
Shortly after the January takeover began, leaders of the protesters insisted they were not damaging property and were, in fact, cleaning up.
Shawna Cox, one of the occupiers, said that everyone in the refuge were fixing and cleaning up.
"I can't imagine them [damaging property]," said Cox. "They're not that type of people."
But it changed when the group's numbers increased, causing the damage to be costly.
Cleaning Up And Compensation
Wildlife service director Dan Ashe vowed that the refuge will be better than ever after the renovation, which is likely to take until early summer.
Ashe said the protestors' occupation will cost the agency $6 million. About $2 million of that already came during the takeover, which prompted the agency to move the refuge's 17 employees out of town for safety — at government expense.
The rest will be allotted for the removal of the debris and the repairing of the damage.
The agency's Assistant Regional Director Jason Holm said $3 million of the cleanup money came from the state of Oregon.
He said the fund is subject to change as they conduct a thorough inventory of what has been broken and what has gone missing in the refuge.
Hope For Recovery?
Holm said the photos they released do not reveal the true extent of the damage.
"These pictures are a microcosm of how bad it really was," said Holm.
What's worse, the Huffington Post reported, is that the trench outside was full of feces. The FBI also revealed in February that the feces were found next to a "sensitive cultural site."
Holm said the refuge will eventually recover, but there are concerns that occupiers may have harmed artifacts and records that were irreplaceable. This has yet to be confirmed.
"Damages to tribal artifacts would be heinous; and lost or missing biological data might be impossible to replicate," said Holm.
Returning To The Refuge
Ashe said he wants the 41-day occupation of the refuge to be a symbol that collaboration — not confrontation — endures.
He said the refuge is still "a great example of good government, good community, [and] good intentions."
Employees of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge have now returned to the site. The headquarters of the wildlife refuge will remain closed but the public is free to roam the rest of the bird sanctuary.
"We are bolstered by the support of the communities in Harney County, where we live," said Holm. "And we are confident the relationships we've built over recent decades will only strengthen."
At least 26 people have been charged with federal conspiracy for their alleged roles in the armed takeover.
Photo : USFWS - Pacific Region | Flickr