Just hours after the final four occupiers stepped out of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge and left the property with authorities, the FBI announced that the saga for Harney County wasn’t entirely over quite yet.
At a press conference Thursday, FBI special agent in charge Greg Bretzing told reporters, “The Malheur National Wildlife Refuge remains closed, and it will remain closed for some number of weeks.”
In the days to come, Bretzing says that law enforcement agents will keep a close watch on the refuge, continue staffing the checkpoints and begin surveying the damage on the property.
“FBI agents are inspecting and securing the buildings and any other areas of concern on the refuge to ensure that no one else is hiding,” Bretzing said.
Then, the FBI says it will begin moving through the refuge with “bomb technicians” and members of the Oregon National Guard to “methodically work their way through the property to locate and mitigate any explosive-related hazards.”
Bretzing expected that process alone to take a number of days before members of the forensics team could begin gathering their own evidence.
Bretzing also promised that the FBI would deploy their “Art Crime Team” to work closely with the local Native American community to ensure that all of the Paiute Tribe’s artifacts and burial grounds had not been disturbed or destroyed.
“Over the course of the last month, the people of Harney County have lived through an experience that is both highly emotional and physically exhausting,” Bretzing said. “But, in the time I have been here, I have also seen the deep love that you have for this place you call home—love for the people, the land, and the way of life that makes Harney County so special.”