Back in the 1800’s plume hunters would decimate bird populations in order to supply fancy feathers for ladies’ hats. Some species of waterbirds, such as the egret, suffered substantial declines because of this.
Plume hunters killed almost all the egrets on Malheur Lake in 1898. The population didn’t rebound, even after 10 years, because the egrets on nearby lakes had been extirpated as well. Finally, in 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt established the “Lake Malheur Reservation” as a wildlife refuge. It was the 19th wildlife refuge he created during his presidency; another 32 would follow. At the time of its creation, it was one of only six wildlife refuges west of the Mississippi.
Because of its important location on the Pacific Flyway, where it provides a crucial resting point within the Northern Great Basin, the refuge has grown over the years, and now comprises 187,757 acres. It’s more than just a rest stop, however. It provides breeding grounds for the Greater Sandhill Crane, Grus canadensis, the amazing birds that winter in the Central Valley of California. Last year 240 breeding pairs nested in the refuge. The refuge also hosts a resident, non-migratory bevy of Trumpeter Swans.
The Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is currently closed. It has been taken over by armed and angry thugs in cowboy hats. They want you to think they’re the good guys. They are not. Their only redeeming feature, as far as I’m concerned, is that they’re not plume hunters.
Journal of Natural Hist. Ed.
Natural History Institute
Center for Humans & Nature