Birdwatching Daily published a wonderful collection of letters that give a perspective on Malheur National Wildlife Refuge that was often lost in the press. I encourage you to read, share, and find a way to visit and support our precious wildlife refuges. They need our help more than ever.

I quickly penned the following letter –written from my heart in five minutes, but it was all there inside and now? I am planning a return to Malheur NWR this spring and hope to be part of the healing:

Delicate, fragile, and critical

It was at Malheur National Wildlife refuge where I first saw sage-grouse dancing — more than a hundred strong in a wondrous display on a cold, sagebrush-scented dawn. Little did I know that the University of Oregon field trip would be so meaningful. Later in life I drew again and again upon that memory as I wrote professionally about sage-grouse first for the National Wildlife Federation and then for the Sage Grouse Initiative.Thiemann-sage-grouse-660-660x495

And it’s there in Harney County where ranchers came together so very recently to demonstrate cooperation and care for sage-grouse and for good ranching practices. It is their model that our nation needs to heed and follow — cooperation over conflict and ranching that conserves, not destroys, our heritage.

It was also at Malheur where I first watched the antics of courting Ruddy Ducks, fell in love with Cinnamon Teal, and gasped at flights of White-faced Ibis overhead. And it was at Malheur where I fell in love — literally, and have my own personal memories of a place where birds and wildlife and visitors find a safe haven.Malheur-white-faced-ibis-330

This refuge is a national treasure, an international wonder, and critical to the future of birds both on wetlands and on the sagebrush uplands. It’s delicate, fragile, and not up for grabs by lawless gun-wielding pseudo-ranchers from out of state. — Marina (Deborah) Richie, Missoula, Montana

(All photos from “What Malheur and all national wildlife refuges mean to birders,” Birdwatching Daily.)