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U.S. Fish And Wildlife Service Regains Control Of Malheur Refuge

<p>The main sign for the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge</p>

Rob Manning


The main sign for the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge

A spokesman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service confirmed Tuesday that the agency has regained control of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, nearly two months after an armed occupation caused employees to evacuate.

USFWS Assistant Regional Director for External Affairs Jason Holm confirmed the agency, which operates the refuge, will have employees returning to the site of the 41-day occupation soon.

"We’re still assessing the situation right now," Holm said. "Not all employees are back in town at this time."

The FBI said it was able to complete its evidence gathering and clearing of the refuge. Since the occupation ended Feb. 11 with the s urrender of the final four militants, FBI agents looked for any remaining occupiers, swept the area for any explosive devices, used forensic specialists to process computers at the site, and documented any potential damage to artifacts of the Burns Paiute Tribe.

"We know the impacts from the armed occupation of the refuge will live on in this community for some time. Today, though, we are able to bring some sense of closure to this chapter of the story," said Greg Bretzing, special agent in charge of the FBI in Oregon.

The refuge remains closed to the public for now.

Holm said that he and the 17 employees who work at the refuge are ready to get back to work.

"These are people that are paid to do specific job in a specific place," Holm said. "It’s a relief to them, and the community I believe, for them to be able to fulfill their role."

Copyright 2016 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Ryan Haas has been with Oregon Public Broadcasting since 2013. His work has won numerous awards, including two National Magazine Award nominations for the podcast "Bundyville." Prior to working at OPB, Haas worked at newspapers in Illinois, Florida, Oregon and the Caribbean.