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BURNS, OR -- The armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is over, but the arguments behind it remain. Harney County Judge Steve Grasty, along with Sheriff Dave Ward, were the faces of those standing up to the occupiers.


Judge Grasty is the county's top elected official. He tells The Source Weekly's Brian Jennings discussions started during the standoff need to continue. "Should county government, should state government have more control, more say or even take over public land ownership? Personally, I don't think so. But, I also think it's really appropriate to have that conversation every few decades. Now's the time, and I think ought to talk through it. But, my hunch is, by the time we go through the economic impacts, the social impacts, perhaps even the environmental impacts, we may find it isn't a good idea."


But, he says, "The problem we've got right now is people are so angry, so much anxiety caused by this militia group, or these militia groups that walked around town with guns - and then with the Bundys; it's going to take a little while to heal that up so that we can get back to having those conversations. But, we're trying to do that, right now."


And, he admits, the issue of public land management doesn't have an easy solution. "If tomorrow the Feds said 'we're done, we're not sending any more financial assistance of any sort to Harney County, and here's all 4.6 million acres, now you do it and see if you can do it better than us.' Holy mackerel. At the end of the day, my gut reaction is we're probably going to have to sell most of it. If it was sold to private ownership, it won't be competitively bought; it'll be bought by those that have the most resources. You and I know what that typically means, is hunters or fisherman, we don't have access to it anymore. I'm not sure I like that."

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