Sagebrush Collaboration

How Harney County Defeated the Takeover of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge

This book tells the story of the occupation of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in early 2016, but puts the event in the historical and cultural context of Harney County. The collaborative culture that existed there helped the local community make it through the crisis. Chapter Four on “Collaboration” focuses on local collaborative problem-solving, especially the role of the High Desert Partnership, and is of special interest to rural community builders.

238 pages. ©2018.
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Reader Reviews for this Book


Review posted January 26, 2023


This book was intense but illuminating. With detailed interviews and lots of facts, opinions, and details about what happened in this remote, rural community, I felt more informed about this conflict that is now a part of our USA history.


Review posted January 8, 2023


Informative and interesting read about the takeover of the Malheur wildlife refuge and also provides insight into anti-government movements across the country, super relevant today.


Review posted November 24, 2022


So, I thought I knew about the "rebellion" / occupation / and the community. I was wrong. And now I am inspired. Read this book and act on what you have learned.


Review posted September 13, 2022


Please! Read this account of the serious events that happened at Malheur Refuge in 2016. The reason it did not end in further drama and danger is due to the established coalition in Harney County, where representatives of ranchers, law, tribal leaders and others used the strength of their established coalition to determine how, together, they would address the threat of outside militia instigators, and got them to leave. It is the best testimony to community coalition I have read.


Review posted May 26, 2022


Wonderful book, reads like a thriller. Once you start it, there is no going back. Great book for everyone who wants to understand current historical events.

Steven and Ruth Dixon

Review posted May 2, 2022


After following the takeover on the television news channels, I was glad to have the opportunity to read more about it and know that what I was reading was truthful. Very good read.


Review posted March 21, 2022


Great historical review of current events.


Review posted September 10, 2021


A well researched account of the Malheur takeover. Brings attention to community aspects that were not very well covered by the press


Review posted August 14, 2021


This is a great book to read while road-tripping to Malheur county and the wildlife refuge. Very informative regarding the events of the occupation.

Kathy Moser

Review posted August 7, 2021


A very thought provoking book about how the residents of Harney County, OR reacted to the Malheur Wildlife Refuge take-over in 2016. The book does a good job of discussing how the residents previous experience with collaboration on local issues "immunized" them from embracing quick fixes from outsiders.

Patricia Bryan

Review posted May 6, 2021


More information than I really needed


Review posted April 12, 2021


The "takeover" scenario as it happened is distressing and depressing to me, especially since I live amongst many people who would sympathize with the militants. This book offers some insight into how communities can resist such blatantly unlawful organized actions although it takes a lot of work and tremendous dedication to do so.


Review posted March 31, 2021


This book offers a detailed account and analysis of the 2016 Malheur Wildlife Refuge takeover and why Harney County did not succumb to far-right, "constitutionalist" sentiments. This book is extremely engaging and is well researched, providing excellent insight into a troubling time in America's history.


Review posted March 18, 2021


Eye-opening book about the use of public lands and recent threats by armed militants. It gave me a new appreciation for citizen involvement in rural areas and destroyed some rural stereotypes that i had been harboring.


Review posted January 27, 2021


This is a really important book for this moment. My love for the people of Harney county is boundless after reading it. I highly recommend this book for these crazy times. Your faith and hope will be restored. Hat's Off to Harney County - we could all learn a lot from how you roll.


Review posted December 10, 2020


Sagebrush Collaboration brings clarity to the standoff in Harney County over grazing land and public land freedom. This is an especially well researched book that makes every attempt to be objective, yet does use that research to point out the faulty stance the armed cattle owners had. It's a revealing document about the fragility of the entire federal public lands system.

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Review posted November 11, 2020


A very complete and detailed analysis of the Bundy occupation of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge. As a visitor to the Burns/French Glen area I found this amazing and frightening. I realize that if this "occupation" had occurred at the Painted Hills area it might have had more success and that in itself is not encouraging. My only criticism of the book is that the Pauite people were not really included as members of the community. As much as I applaud the Burns community for their strong stand against the outside forces of anarchy, they did not seem (or the author did not portray well) interested in involving the Pauite people much in their meetings. It is not a truly diverse community but it is a resilient one.


Review posted September 27, 2020


I really enjoyed this book. For years I heard people refer to events that had taken place at the Malheur Refuge that is located in Harney County and was always interested in learning more about it. This book was very interesting and helped me understand the events that had taken place. I especially liked the photos and the quotes from Harney County residents. I would recommend this book to others.


Review posted August 28, 2020


Engaging book about how Harney County defeated the takeover of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge. Very readable book with good background about what led to the takeover and the collaboration that united the citizens against the takeover. This is a good study about how communities should be working collaboratively with all involved parties. I recommend this book as an educational study for collaborative leadership.


Review posted July 14, 2020


After hearing the author speak at a "First Draft" writers series event in Pendleton, I bought a number of copies of this book to give to East Oregonian reporters and editors. I found it helpful in understanding the reasons behind the occupation, and the importance of building community in rural Oregon.


Review posted June 29, 2020


interesting read.. lot more detail then the media coverage

Jain Elliott

Review posted June 26, 2020


This was a terrific book. I was an avid follower of Peter Walker's facebook posts during the event, and very much enjoyed his question and answer session after the Encircle Films showing of No Man's Land, the David Byars documentary. It's all in here--a complete (and entertaining) history of what the Bundys were (apparently) thinking, and a detailed account of why it didn't work in Harney County.


Review posted June 14, 2020


This book was helpful for understanding in detail the events at Burns and Malheur Wildlife Refuge. It points out the importance of long term efforts at community collaboration in strengthening communities to survive future disruptions.


Review posted June 9, 2020


Peter Walker did a wonderful job of laying out what happened at the Malhuer Wildlife Refuge in late 2015 and early 2016. He outlined in great depth how the takeover came to be, what its historical context was and how it was peacefully resolved. He described the community of people who live in Harney County and how their resilience, patience and care prevented a terrible situation from becoming catastrophic. It was quite an enlightening read. It was so nice to read about a community triumphing because they chose to cooperate and collaborate together.


Review posted May 28, 2020


I am a westerner, transplanted to the Willamette Valley in Oregon. I live there, since as an independent craftsman I can readily obtain work. However, when we want a break from our lives, we have a tendency to head for eastern Oregon. Even though an outsider, there is always a connection to the people and the land I truly appreciate. I followed the Malheur occupation closely, but honestly did not always understand the details. The outcome was certainly heartening to me. For me, reading the Sagebrush Collaboration, was an enlightening experience. I literally could not put it down. Peter Walker clearly showed the thought process of both sides. With that clarity, I was shown how a divided country can come together, how radical armed resistance is not the way, and with those thoughts, how Harney County can be the guiding light for the rest of the country. I thank Peter Walker for a job well done and highly recommend Sagebrush Collaboration as required reading.


Review posted May 3, 2020


Highly interesting book. This is a detailed and thorough investigation of the 'takeover' of the Malheur Wildlife headquarters by radicals who recognize NO government but, wanted to enforce THEIR will on the people of Malheur County. It's the story of how County leadership, and citizens, worked together in collaboration to defeat the radicals and retain their own freedom. It shows how the (foreign to the area) radicals were completely out of touch with the reality of life in Malheur County, and how that mis reading, and their own excessive hubris, caused their downfall. I also found the discussion of the falling fortunes of the timber industry in Oregon to be fascinating, because, even though I lived through those times, the causes of change at the time ('70s thru '90s) were not well understood by us mill workers. Highly recommend this book.


Review posted April 22, 2020


I loved this book, and it gives me much hope. Our society is characterized too often by partisanship, disrespect for diversity, and very harsh black-and-white judgments of others. It takes a lot of work to listen carefully to each other and be vulnerable to a shared path forward. Harney County and stakeholders put in the time and energy to create this shared vision. When the takeover of the Refuge happened, that investment paid off. I hope more communities would do the same. Some of us in the Willamette Valley can learn much from Harney County's experience and work to apply it to our immediate lives.

Jan Diamantine

Review posted March 30, 2020


I lived in Burns Oregon for 16 years so find this book very interesting. Thanks a bunch.


Review posted March 30, 2020


This book gives great insight into the grassroots response to the armed occupation of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge. It has good advice on how to quickly organize to confront unforeseen challenges.


Review posted March 15, 2020


This was an interesting and easy read .I found this book to be insightful on two levels. First, Mr Walker's time spent in the community provided a much richer, more nuanced telling of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge takeover than the typical news reporting. This wasn't simply a radical band of fellow ranchers failing in the face of local indifference. In fact, many of the Harney County residents agreed with Amon Bundy's group. But Harney County already had methods in place to deal with their particular situation, and a new set of outsiders telling them what to do wasn't welcome. This book revealed the layers of subtlety at play. But secondly, this book could be called a case study for anyone interested in community leadership, social activism, wanting to make a difference in their local environment. Mr Walker went into good depth researching and explaining how Harney County had developed ways to all get along and work together. And how the Bundy-led takeover didn't stand a chance, because they missed several key points. The lessons learned could no doubt be applied to any group.


Review posted February 27, 2020


This has been an informative read for me. I can see both side, kinda on the fence here. I don't think it was a good idea of handling that situation as they did, but also BLM was what I see as a government murder cover up. The people in town, shouldn't of had to deal with all the stress and drama. Things could have been handled so much differently for all involved. Thank you.


Review posted February 12, 2020


Very captivating and interesting. It was nice to read the conflict from the towns side of view.

Pamela Fitzpatrick

Review posted February 8, 2020


"Sagebrush Collaboration..." is a must read whether you live in Oregon, California, Mississippi, or, actually, anywhere in the world. We are very lucky that the Bundy's and their friends decided to take over a refuge in Harney County rather than many other rural counties in the US. Harney County had done the hard work of making community/county decisions in a collaborative fashion for decades, and their hard work paid off. Read this book, you'll be inspired and hopeful, no small feat considering our current political climate. Thank you Harney County! (below there is a place on this page to mark a rating and I'd like to give this book a 5 star rating....but I can't seem to get the rating option to work....)


Review posted February 1, 2020


I attended a screening of the documentary “No Man’s Land” which was followed by a talk by Peter Walker. He then opened up for a lengthy question & answer session. The movie left an awful lot of unanswered questions, many regarding the reactions and involvement of the residents of Harney County, and especially those who live in Burns/Hines. As Professor Walker had spent much of the time of the occupation living with and talking to these residents, he was able to fill in many of the gaps in our knowledge of exactly what was happening in that community. His book is a good explanation of how the Harney County residents were able to push the occupiers out and start returning to a semblance of normality in their lives, even though many fissures had been created and still exist today between Bundy ‘supporters’ and those opposed. His detailed descriptions of the collaborative groups that worked tirelessly to understand each other’s viewpoints are helpful to me in understanding how the community was able to defeat the intruders. I wish this type of collaboration could be spread into our current toxic political scene although I wonder if it isn’t too late for civil conversation.


Review posted January 20, 2020


Having watched the news reports on Malheur Refuge takeover and the related events, I was still not aware of how impactful the Harney County people were in affecting the outcome. This book was very enlightening and I learned a lot about appreciating the value of collaboration; both the time it takes to establish it as a means of community as well as how effective it really is. This is a very good and valuable read.


Review posted December 8, 2019


This book makes much clearer some of the major issues that have been ongoing for decades with communities in our rural areas, and the inequities that have widened the gap between rural and urban communities. These are problems that are being addressed in some of our rural communities, but it seems that much more needs to be done, and with the support of our urban communities as well. As much as we, in the urban areas, would like to discount or not think about the struggles of these rural citizens, we depend on them in many respects, to continue to farm and ranch as part of our food chain. We cannot lose sight of these facts, and we need to support these smaller producers over the monopolies of the corporate farms and ranches whose main goal is to maximize profits at the expense of quality and food safety. I'm glad that the Bundy's failed in their attempts to start another revolution, especially at a location distant from where they themselves reside. I hope this discourages them from any more attempts to provoke distant communities for their own purposes and agendas. Hurray for Harney County.


Review posted November 25, 2019


This was a concise and insightful piece of local Oregon history. The author did well covering this event outwith bias and telling the story of those involved.

Neal Lemery

Review posted November 22, 2019


This is a comprehensive look at a challenging time in Harney County. The author interviews a wide range of participants and citizens, giving the reader an in-depth examination of the challenges a small community faced when confronted with extremist political views and a hostile takeover of a local cherished and fragile natural resource. His discussion and analysis of collaborative efforts is insightful and useful as a model for other communities.


Review posted November 18, 2019


Very interesting content. Does a fine job explaining the Malheur Occupation in the context of Harney County. Well researched. The writing is serviceable rather than elegant. It is a bit repetitive and I found it to be a bit too academic... reads like a thesis. Still, interesting, topical and important enough to make it worth a read.

John Reynolds

Review posted October 29, 2019


Well written account of an attempted takeover by extremists. Because it was not in strict sequence, some repetition was inevitable. Some commentaries by those quoted went on a bit long. Very little was said about troubles between previous Field Station managers and some cattlemen; I would have liked more detail, in order to better understand the value of the collaboration.


Review posted October 25, 2019


Living in Harney County, through the occupation, I found this a hard read. Peter Walker was a regular in our community and did a very good job on this book and the information. There's a LOT of Harney County history in this also.


Review posted October 22, 2019


I had only read a little about this incident in the newspaper, so it was interesting to experience it through the eyes of someone who was actually there interviewing the townspeople. I enjoyed getting to know about a part of Oregon I wasn't familiar with.


Review posted October 10, 2019


This book tells what happened to and in Harney County OR better than most other accounts. It told the story from the community's outlook. Specifically, it seemed to indicate that the community's collaborative approach in working together served well as an inoculant to ward off the outsiders coming in to agitate. Bundy was often his own worst advocate because he did not listen to local people and wanted to impose his agenda where it was not welcome or respected. Locals said we have our problems and it is up to us to address them using local input. Found his narrative easy to read, even though there are many players and a good bit of duplication. A good read and worthy of my time.


Review posted September 25, 2019


I read this book in preparation for attending a pair of programs at City Club of Eugene about the events in Harney County. Before I ever got to the program, I had recommended the book to friends on the local school board, because it had compelling lessons for making their work more effective. It is an inspiring book about how regular people understood their responsibilities with respect to maintaining a civil and democratic community. Having lived in rural Oregon myself, I recognize that historic uses of natural resources may be incompatible with modern understanding of the inter-relatedness of elements in any environment. I also learned a lot about how important it is to have kind and sturdy relationships with neighbors. Peter Walker did a fine job of telling a complicated story, honoring the words and perspectives of the main characters. This book makes an especially good read with Scott Page's book "The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies" (2007).


Review posted September 9, 2019


This book shows what really happened in Harney County. As for me, while the occupation was happening, I was confused about who was speaking for the town. The author plainly takes the reader down the road to meet locals and see what great community they had, and still have today. Mr. Walker explains the locals point of view, honestly.


Review posted August 16, 2019


First, thank you for all you do and your book program. This is well written and not a dry academic text. It provided me with a number of insights about what happened at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge. I was not surprised by the independence of the county's residence and their desire to make their own decisions. What did surprise me was the lack of support given to the Bundy takeover by the community. I am afraid I had a very narrow and incorrect view of the conservative eastern Oregon community. Figured they would get behind anything that rid them of federal government interventions. Other than telling the story of Harney county and takeover at the refuge, the book is also a good roadmap of how to undertake collaborations. Especially striking to me was it really takes a long lead time to make them work. I also came away with a good feeling about communities and the need for them to pull together. My only complaint is there was a bit of repetition. Overall, a good read.


Review posted August 14, 2019


I have been looking for a good comprehensive overview of this event and how the local community stood up to the outsiders who tried to take over the Wildlife Refuge. This is a good book to show that local involvement from citizens can make changes and can have a large influence.


Review posted June 20, 2019


Great Read! Was an interesting insider point of view for a place that is close to my home in Eastern Oregon.


Review posted June 11, 2019


Great read. Couldn't put it down. The author immersed himself in the community and the occupiers camp and meetings to gather factual information that brings to light the value of collaboration over tyranny.


Review posted June 5, 2019


One of the most interesting books I've read in years. This book taught me a lot about community resiliency in the face of unusual change.


Review posted June 3, 2019


Great information.


Review posted May 28, 2019


This book provides a great overview of the 2016 takeover in Eastern Oregon


Review posted May 24, 2019


Interesting read and information


Review posted May 17, 2019


Having lived through the takeover, I was looking forward to reading this book. It captured many points of view in an unbiased manner. It offered rational for some of the points of view. I found it a very factual account of the event. The photos captured the tumultuous times. It brought back nightmares. I have shared with other friends in the area and they too find it to be a factual account of the occupation.


Review posted April 22, 2019


Outstanding. Peter Walker does great service to the resilient people of Harney County in the face of the misguided, wrongheaded, and threatening takeover of the Malheur Refuge headquarters in 2015-16 by Amon Bundy and his followers. The compelling part of "Sagebrush Collaboration" is the narrative of the occupation of both the refuge headquarters and the town of Burns itself by the openly armed, mostly out of state militia. The second half of the book, however, pays homage to and outlines how Harney county residents including federal employees, ranch owners, timber concerns, and water users have come together over the last decades to find win-win solutions to problems in the high desert. I highly recommend this book to anyone with any connection to rural Oregon. Harney County's hard work at finding solutions to their problems should be a model for landowners, federal and state workers, and environmentalists here and across the country.


Review posted April 17, 2019


As the past director of the Ford Institute I consider this book a triumph of investigation and writing. A major insight is that it was the relationships in the community that were already ongoing that made the community resilient in the face of demanding outside interests. I recognized several names in the book from people who were in the leadership classes, which were about relationships (positive acquaintance), collaboration (just below the top of the Tupelo Model), and local control. This is a must read for anyone in a rural community and should be the topic of scores of group read discussions. If I had a criticism of the book it is that the subject of federal "overreach" emphasized lack of local participation, where my experience it is that agencies, through pressure from environmental and developmental groups, keep expanding their mission (mission creep). Still, I give it five stars and my strongest recommendation to read it and encourage others to, too. And, my compliments to Foundation for making it available.