Idaho BLM cancels open house, takes extra precaution

The Twin Falls District of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management had planned to show off its new office building in Twin Falls to the public during an open house last Wednesday. But just hours before the open house, the agency announced it was canceling the event.

“The delay of our open house was indeed related to wanting to take an abundance of caution in light of the situation going on in Harney County,” BLM spokeswoman Heather Tiel-Nelson said Friday. The agency plans to reschedule the event. “At this point we do not know when that will be,” she said.

On Jan. 2, an armed group led by Ammon Bundy began occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Ore., to protest federal land use policies. As of Friday, 11 people had been taken into custody, including Bundy. Four members of the armed group were still at the refuge, including Sean and Sandy Anderson, from Riggins.

Statewide, BLM has not closed any offices or scaled back activities, said Erin Curtis, Idaho BLM deputy state director for communications.

“We have been having a lot of communication with our employees about having heightened situational awareness, particularly in our more rural offices,” Curtis said. “We have been taking an abundance of caution and being a little bit more aware as we have been going through the week. Other than that, we have been situation normal.”

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, which operates national wildlife refuges, has communicated to its employees, too, though it did not provide details Friday.

“Due to the evolving situation in eastern Oregon, all service stations are on alert and being advised to take appropriate caution,” said Gavin Shire, the service’s chief of public affairs.

Cynthia Sewell: 208-377-6428, @CynthiaSewell