The Argus Observer
By Kristi Albertson
February 7, 2016
ONTARIO — A U.S. lawmaker from Idaho is advocating collaboration over federal overreach.
Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, said he is sympathetic to the frustration that prompted the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns.
“The level of frustration I’m seeing is at the highest level I think I’ve ever seen,” he said.
In a stop at The Argus Observer office Friday evening, Crapo talked about the protest in Burns and the years of frustration that led to it.
“The examples are legion of the frustration of the people who live near the public lands and the families whose livelihoods depend on access to public lands,” Crapo said.
In Harney County, that frustration came to a head during the refuge occupation. A federal grand jury has indicted 16 people involved. Twelve have been arrested, and four protesters remain at the refuge.
“People have the right to protest in this country, but protests must be legal and peaceful,” Crapo said. “People also have the right to expect law enforcement’s response to be legal and appropriate.”
Crapo said he has watched video released by the FBI of a fatal traffic stop north of Burns a few dozen times. The Jan. 26 footage shows Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, who had been part of the group occupying the refuge, getting shot by law enforcement officers.
The video isn’t clear enough to eliminate questions about what happened, Crapo said.
“Those questioning whether excessive force was used deserve an answer,” he said.
When it comes to land management, Crapo proposed an across-the-board evaluation with stakeholders at the federal, state and local levels along with private enterprise.
“I’m a strong advocate for collaboration,” Crapo said.
He cited as an example the eight years of collaboration that led to the creation of the Owyhee Canyonlands wilderness in Idaho. A national monument was proposed in Idaho’s canyonlands, and Owyhee County commissioners contacted Crapo for help fighting it.
The senator, along with county and state representatives, tribal representatives, environmental groups, ranchers, sportsmen and others with a vested interest in the canyonlands, worked together to create the wilderness area.
“The outcome we reached resolved issues for all parties,” he said.
As an Idaho legislator, Crapo said he couldn’t speak directly to wilderness proposals on the Oregon side of the border.
The Owyhee Coalition, whose members include the Oregon Natural Desert Association, The Wilderness Society and Sierra Club, has proposed a 2.5 million-acre national conservation area containing 2 million acres of wilderness in Malheur County. A separate proposal would designate the area a national monument.
“I strongly oppose any national monument” designation, Crapo said. “It’s another example of very heavy-handed overreach — in this case by one person, the president.”
Crapo suggested Idaho’s Owyhee Canyonland is a template for Oregon and again emphasized the importance of collaboration.
“If you will collaborate, if you will come together to work out all the issues and all the different perspectives, I would support it if the collaborative group did also,” he said.