A man stands guard at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

A man stands guard at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Rick Bowmer/AP

Main Agency Involved in Oregon Land Standoff Rejects Charge of Amateurism

Rancher had written that regulators “had no agriculture experience.”

The Fish and Wild Service, whose employees have borne the brunt of troubles raised by the politicized occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, does not agree with a recent comment by a local rancher that questioned the professional qualifications of FWS’ regulatory staff.

"Most of the time, those regulations are written by people with no agriculture experience, and little understanding of what it takes to produce our nation’s food,”  Oregon rancher Keith Nantz wrote in a recent Washington Post op-ed accusing the Obama administration of pushing ranchers’ livelihood to the brink.

“The agencies that control these lands,” the rancher said, “can add burdensome regulations at any time. Often, they will begin aggressively enforcing them before ranchers have a chance to adjust."

Asked to comment on its regulatory staff qualifications, the Fish and Wildlife Service said in a statement to Government Executive that the agency “has worked for decades in close collaboration with ranching and farming professionals and local agriculture communities to help inform our science, policies and regulations. Our employees have deep roots in the communities they serve, and many come from ranching and farming families. We value their perspective, because in our experience, keeping working families on the land they've stewarded for generations is good for wildlife and local communities.” 

FWS continued: “That's why, across the nation and especially in Harney County, we've worked with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, local conservation districts and other partners who understand the needs of agricultural producers to develop voluntary conservation agreements and provide financial and technical assistance to help improve the productivity of the land for the benefit of both wildlife and people."

The Agriculture Department, which regulates ranchers and manages land in the Malheur area through the Forest Service, declined to comment.