By Wm. Tweed, FOMR Board Member
Visitors come from all over to visit Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, but seldom does the refuge get to host a sitting governor. That’s what happened, however, on March 16th, when Oregon Governor Kate Brown made a quiet visit to the refuge. The governor had come to Harney County to take part in a half-day-long government-to-government meeting with the Burns Paiute Tribe. Once that serious business was over, she told her staff that she wanted to visit Malheur to enjoy a nature break.
In doing so, the governor was following a path with deep cultural significance for the region’s native people. The connection between the Wadatika, the traditional name for the Burns Paiute people, and Malheur Lake goes back almost a thousand years. The Wadatika take their traditional name, in fact, from their reliance on wada seeds (Suaeda sp.) collected around the margins of Malheur Lake.
Hosting the governor’s visit to the refuge were Jeff Mackay and Alexa Martinez from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and FOMR board members Alice Elshoff and Wm. Tweed, all of whom met the governor at Benson Pond. There, Mackay, the refuge’s Project Manager, led Governor Brown and her party on an early-spring nature walk. Malheur worked its usual magic on all present, with the highlight of the stroll being a pair of tundra swans.
Before the governor headed back to Bend for the evening, she also paid a visit to refuge headquarters, where she admired the site’s wonderful New Deal-era architecture, asked questions about the site’s restoration after its disturbance during the occupation, and visited FOMR’s Crane’s Nest Store. There, FOMR co-founder Alice Elshoff presented her with an inscribed copy of Malheur’s Legacy, the refuge’s centennial volume.
Brown’s visit reminds us all of the significance of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, this place we all care about so much. People do indeed come from all over the visit the refuge and for very different reasons. We welcome all who come in peace.