Where Steens Mountain and Blitzen Valley meet in Southeast Oregon, a prolific natural legacy lives in the form of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Such places of preservation take on special meaning come December 4th. That day is Wildlife Conservation Day, celebrated annually since the U.S. Department of State declared it so in 2012. In time for the observance, this blog spotlights a government book about the ecological and archeological abundance of one Oregonian sagebrush-covered basin.
The paper bag-brown exterior of the U.S. Department of Interior Fish and Wildlife Service publication Malheur’s Legacy: Celebrating a Century of Conservation, 1908-2008 betrays nothing of the beauty within. Open it up and you’ll find part picture book, part human history. Like so much of America’s landscape, Malheur’s grassy marshland has a lush story to tell.
Well before the refuge was formally gazetted in 1908, prehistoric climatic changes blueprinted the ecosystem. Undulating water flows created a meadowland for migratory wildfowl. Early Native Americans hunted off the spring-watered land. Many revolutions of the sun later, wagon trains of settlers wheeled in. Ranching transformed the wetlands. Hunters sourcing high fashion hat plumes nearly snuffed out the native bird species.
Conservationists cried fowl (terrible pun intended). Believing that “spread at our feet was a domain for wild fowl unsurpassed in the United States,” they passionately propositioned President Theodore Roosevelt to designate the hunted landscape a wildlife refuge. And now, over 100 years later, the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is a protected home for over 320 bird species including the great egret, Northern pintail drake, and American avocet.
During the Great Depression, scores of young men of the Civilian Conservation Corps encamped in the area and completed numerous improvement projects. In the later half of the 20th century, refuge staff began digging into the long haul work of maintaining a premier wildlife habitat. Conservation management challenges were faced head on and bird homes were successfully safeguarded. Many of those protected waterfowl are pictured in the last 1/3 of the book.
Mahlheur’s Legacy is a story about nature, sure. But also nurture. It took a lot of manpower to set aside a land shaped by the past in order save it for the future. I hope you can set aside some time to read about it.
How do I obtain this publication?
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About the author: Our guest blogger is Chelsea Milko, Public Relations Specialist in GPO’s Public Relations Office.