By Dylan J. Darling

The Bulletin

A pair of groups representing current and former federal employees have sent a letter to the head of the U.S. Department of Justice urging action to end the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters.

“In our experience we have learned that lawbreakers must be held accountable in a timely manner or they will gain power and become more dangerous,” reads the letter from the Public Lands Foundation and the National Association of Forest Service Retirees sent Tuesday to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch. “We are very concerned that the longer that no action is taken, the current situation will deteriorate and become more and more dangerous for the dedicated people protecting the public lands and the public legally using these lands.”

Since Jan. 2, a group of militants lead by Ammon and Ryan Bundy, brothers from Nevada and conservative critics of federal government, has occupied the refuge headquarters about 30 miles southeast of Burns. Sunday was day nine of the occupation.

Membership of the Public Lands Foundation includes current and retired Bureau of Land Management workers, but most of the nonprofit’s membership are retired BLM workers, according to the group. The National Association of Forest Service Retirees represents U.S. Forest Service workers.

Jim Golden, who was the deputy supervisor for the Deschutes National Forest in the 1990s and is president for the Forest Service retirees group, lives in Bend. He said lack of response by the federal government to events like the occupation near Burns compromises the safety of federal workers on and off the job.

“We would like to see the federal government confront these people,” he said. “If they have broken the law, they should go to jail.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7812, ddarling@bendbulletin.com

12209928