Idaho Lawmakers Visited with Oregon Occupation Group
BOISE, Idaho (KTVB) - Tuesday marked day 11 that armed protesters staked out at a federal wildlife refuge near Burns, Ore. Three Idaho State Representatives headed to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge this past weekend to find out exactly what was going on.
They are calling it a "fact-finding mission", and say an Oregon legislator invited them to come see the takeover for themselves and gauge the situation for their own constituents here in the Gem State.
"We are outsiders and they're outsiders and we just brought a different perspective to it," Rep. Judy Boyle (R-Midvale) said. KTVB interview can be viewed here
The three state representatives took a weekend trip to the remote Malheur National Wildlife Refuge on Saturday, Jan. 8. Representatives Sage Dixon and Heather Scott of District 1, along with Boyle, a representative of District 9, were among lawmakers from Oregon, Washington and Nevada who went on this fact-finding mission.
"We wanted to find out what had been negotiated, what was actually happening from them, how they felt," Rep. Boyle said.
The legislators say that's why they first talked to local officials and law enforcement in Burns, as well as the FBI.
"And so after that meeting we wanted to make sure we got both sides of the story," Rep. Scott added.
The lawmakers met with Ammon Bundy and protesters themselves - who still feel their grievances are being ignored by the government. The three Idaho representatives agree with the group's main reasons for staking out:
"Just federal overreach in general," Rep. Scott said. She says they wanted to see what was going on because they all agree in liberties and limited government. "And I think some of the people resonate with us for those."
Dixon, Scott and Boyle say what prompted their visit to Burns are their concerns about the situation, and the concerns of Idahoans in the districts they serve.
"I think there's often misinformation that comes out from both sides," Rep. Dixon said. "And so in order to protect the interests of our constituents and also to preempt anything that may happen in our state we wanted to go be fully informed about what was occurring."
They say they're worried something similar to this standoff could happen in their own districts. The question of whether the legislators think the occupiers' standoff is effective remains.
"I don't know if that's always the best approach to take but it's what they were led to do and they thought was the approach they needed to take to be heard," Rep. Dixon added.
The representatives say when they encountered the armed standoff firsthand, there was a dramatic difference in what they've been hearing or seeing on television and what is actually happening. When asked if they would go back to Burns, Dixon said no, Scott said possibly and Boyle responded: "You never know what may happen".
In a news release sent out Tuesday afternoon, the representatives say a further investigation is necessary to find a solution not only to the standoff but to the "alleged unwarranted actions of the federal agencies".
Read the full press release here:
Idaho State Representatives Judy Boyle, Heather Scott, and Sage Dixon were among a group of western state legislators who traveled to Burns, Oregon last Saturday (January 8, 2016) on a fact finding mission.
We were among a selected group of state legislators invited by an Oregon legislator because of our commitment to liberty, freedom and efforts to curb federal government overreach. Numerous constituents in each of our Districts have expressed concerns about the situation unfolding in Burns, and similar frustrations in dealing with federal agencies. We would like to avoid any type of similar situations in our own districts; therefore we went to assess this situation for ourselves and our constituents.
We first met in Burns with local county officials, law enforcement officers, and the FBI to receive a briefing and make them fully aware of our intentions. We were cautioned about proceeding out to the Refuge for various reasons but were not prohibited from going. One county official was visibly hostile towards our presence and used very inflammatory language about our participation, and the citizens at the refuge.
Based on information we heard during this meeting, coupled with other discussions with local residents, we determined the need to corroborate this information with that offered by the group at the Refuge to completely understand the situation. We made the decision as a group to hear both sides of the story which required hearing directly from Ammon Bundy and his group. Clearly, based on our brief visit to Burns, a further investigation is warranted to find a satisfactory solution not only to the standoff but to the alleged unwarranted actions of the federal agencies.
At the Refuge, we received a petition of grievances from the group, which is a right guaranteed to citizens under the First Amendment. They believed their grievances have been and still are being ignored.
It is part of our job as legislators to continually understand citizen grievances, find solutions based on facts and attempt to de-escalate volatile situations whenever possible. We believe it is very important to try to preempt any similar situation that may occur in our state.
We expect to stay abreast of the situation and will provide any further information we discover.