People gather for a rally at the New Mexico state capitol that drew a crowd of about 300 to demand that public lands stay in public hands. Image: Lew Carpenter
As the National Wildlife Federation and its state affiliates geared up to defend public lands with the start of new legislative sessions, the armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge prompted rallies from Seattle to Santa Fe by sportsmen and women to say "Keep public lands in public hands."
About 300 people attended a Jan. 19 demonstration in Portland, Ore., where Bob Rees of the Association of Northwest Steelheaders, NWF's Oregon state affiliate, spoke. Garret VeneKlasen, New Mexico Wildlife Federation executive director, was among the speakers at a Jan. 21 rally in Santa Fe.
“As the illegal occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge winds down, perpetrators are held accountable, and damages are repaired, we must also focus on the policy dispute at the heart of this debate: Should our public lands be sustained for the benefit of all Americans, or should they be exploited for the enrichment of the few or sold off to the highest bidder?” says Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation.