These photos show why the land currently occupied by armed ranchers is protected.

It's been four days since a group of armed men took over the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon on Jan. 2, 2016.

Ammon Bundy, leader of the armed occupiers at Oregon's Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by George Frey/Getty Images News.


Ostensibly, their cause is defending two ranchers who were sentenced to prison for burning 130 acres of the refuge, calling the conviction a governmental interference on the "people's constitutional rights."

Coverage of the standoff has mostly focused on the fact that these men have guns, that they're anti-government, that Ammon Bundy's father Cliven was in a similar standoff last year, that people are calling the group #yallqaeda, and that a group of armed #BlackLivesMatter protesters taking over a government building certainly wouldn't be called "peaceful." Given our national current preoccupation with mass shootings, terrorist attacks, and anti-government presidential candidates, this coverage is understandable.

But it's worth looking at what's really at stake here.

With all the attention on the armed ranchers, few people are talking about the birds and other creatures that the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge protects.

"When you look at migratory birds and how they use the landscape, Malheur National Wildlife is critically important," says Bob Sallinger, conservation director at the Audubon Society of Portland, which promotes education and conservation around bird populations at refuges like Malheur.

A burrowing owl at the Malheur National Wildlife Sanctuary. Photo by Candace Larson/Audubon Society of Portland, used with permission.

According to Sallinger, Malheur is home to the largest sandhill crane population of any refuge in the western United States.

20,000 white-faced ibises — 20% of the world's white-faced ibis population — live there as do 4,000 white pelicans and 7,000 grebes among hundreds of thousands migrating waterfowl and tens of thousands of shore birds.

For these birds, the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is an essential stop along their migratory journey.

The Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is home to thousands of grebes like this horned one. Photo by Candace Larson/Audubon Society of Portland, used with permission.

In fact, Sallinger calls Malheur the "crown jewel" of the United States' wildlife refuge system.

Malheur is one of the first wildlife refuges in the western United States, created by President Theodore Roosevelt after Audubon Society founder William Finley persuaded him to set aside the land by showing him breathtaking photos of the habitat's bird population.

Many of the bird photos interspersed in this article were taken by Finley in 1908, the year that Roosevelt created Malheur.

Photos like this one of a great horned owl:

The great horned owl is one of many species of birds threatened by the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by William Finley and Herman Bohlman/Audubon Society of Portland/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Digital Library.

And this photo of a lone white-faced ibis:

Portland Audubon Society founder William Finley's 1908 photo of a white-faced ibis at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by William Finley and Herman Bohlman/Audubon Society of Portland/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Digital Library.

And this glorious photo of a pod of American white pelicans:

Malheur National Wildlife refuge is an essential stop along many bird populations' migratory journey, including that of the American white pelican. Photo by William Finley and Herman Bohlman/Audubon Society of Portland/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Digital Library.

And this hand-painted glass slide of a northern pintail:

Photo by William Finley and Herman Bohlman/Audubon Society of Portland/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Digital Library.

As well as this delicate yellow-headed blackbird:


Photo by William Finley and Herman Bohlman/Audubon Society of Portland/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Digital Library.

And this handsome mallard:

Photo by William Finley and Herman Bohlman/Audubon Society of Portland/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Digital Library.

It's thanks to Roosevelt setting a precedent for creating protective refuges like Malheur that America retains so much of its wildlife — fowl and fauna and mammalian and reptilian alike.

Sallinger says he doesn't know if the armed occupation will cause immediate harm to the animals on the refuge, but he is worried about the long term impact.

"[The armed ranchers' occupation will] take very thin resources and stretch them even thinner now," Sallinger says. The refuge has a tight schedule and very limited staffing resources to get all the restoration, monitoring, and management tasks that they need to get done during the year.


Malheur Lake bird nest. Photo by William Finley and Herman Bolhman/Audubon Society of Portland/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Digital Library.

This includes monitoring where various bird populations nest, the effect their management strategies have on the birds, and cutting-edge techniques to get rid of an invasive carp species in Malheur Lake to allow more birds to breed there. So far, these invasive carp have eaten everything in sight in the lake and have stirred up so much sediment that sunlight can't get through to create essential food sources and allow habitat features to grow back.

Any delay in this work makes Malheur employees' jobs harder and could mean long-term harm to the wildlife in the refuge.

The occupation could also undermine the amount of work environmental groups have done to involve the community in protecting wildlife.

In 2013, the refuge brought together a coalition committed to Malheur's restoration.

Sallinger says that when he talks about shining examples of collaborative projects, he talks about Malheur first.

The coalition behind the Malheur Wildlife National Refuge wants to restore Malheur Lake as a viable habitat for the various bird populations that frequent it. Photo by William Finley and Herman Bohlman/Audubon Society of Portland/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Digital Library.

As a result, it makes him sad that the Malheur occupiers are trying to portray the relationship between the refuge and the surrounding community as one of conflict.

"The truth there is that the refuge has been working very diligently to include the community," he says.

In fact, bird watchers at the Daily Kos have a message from the bird-watching community for those who have engaged in poaching and other harmful activities around various wildlife refuges, writing:

"Malheur, Hart Mountain, Klamath Marsh, Yellowstone, Glacier, Yosemite etc etc, they all belong to us, we the American people, and no small group of armed thugs is going to destroy the great wildlife and national park system that our great Republican President Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir put in place over a century ago."

The ranchers claims to be working in the interest of the people, but it's worth noting the people don't want them there.

In its press release, the Portland Audubon Society highlights this fact (emphasis added):

"The occupation of Malheur by armed, out of state militia groups puts one of America’s most important wildlife refuges at risk. It violates the most basic principles of the Public Trust Doctrine and holds hostage public lands and public resources to serve the very narrow political agenda of the occupiers. The occupiers have used the flimsiest of pretexts to justify their actions—the conviction of two local ranchers in a case involving arson and poaching on public lands. Notably, neither the local community or the individuals convicted have requested or endorsed the occupation or the assistance of militia groups."

Occupation leader Ammon Bundy told CNN that the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is "destructive to the people of the county and to the people of the area." But what these anti-government protesters who seek to make federally protected lands available for hunters, farmers, and anyone who wishes to claim them forget is that wildlife refuges exist to protect the environment not only for wildlife, but for people as well.

It's thanks to national wildlife refuges that we have clean water and clean air.

On Tuesday, Jan. 6, the third day of the occupation, it was reported that the people of the nearby community of Burns, Oregon, were hoping that the uninvited, armed occupiers will leave. They don't want them there, and the two ranchers who were convicted of arson don't want them there either.

For the sake of the animals on the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, and for the people who help them, let's hope so.

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Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

The battle between millennials and older generations isn't exactly a generational war—it's more a case of mistaken generational identity. A decade ago, whining about millennials being young adults unprepared to make their way in the world at least made sense mathematically. But when people bag on millennials now they end up looking rather foolish.

A marketing researcher with a doctorate in social psychology wrote an op-ed for the Chicago Tribune titled "Post-pandemic, some millennials finally decide to start #adulting." And when the Tribune shared it to Twitter, their since-deleted tweet read, "Writer Jennifer Rosner predicts COVID-10 lockdowns will force easy-breezy millennials to grow up."

Hoo boy.

Interestingly, the writer of the op-ed is a millennial herself, but she repeats generalizations about her entire generation that seem like they mainly apply to her own social circle. Read it yourself to decide, but regardless, the tweet of the op-ed itself set off a firestorm of responses from millennials who are tired of being painted as irresponsible young people who don't know how to "adult" instead of what they actually are.

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2020 was difficult (to say the least). The year was full of life changes, losses, and lessons as we learned to navigate the "new normal." You may have questions about what the changes and challenges of 2020 mean for your taxes. That's where TurboTax Live comes in, making it easy to connect with real tax experts to help with your taxes – or even do them for you, start to finish.

Not only has TurboTax Live helped millions of people get their taxes done right, but this year they've also celebrated people who uplifted their communities during a difficult time by surprising them with "little lifts" to help out even more.

Here are a few of their stories:


Julz, hairdresser and salon owner

"As a hairdresser and salon owner, 2020 was extremely challenging," says Julz. "Being a hairdresser has historically been a recession-proof industry, but we've never faced global shut down due to health risk, or pandemic, not in my lifetime. And for the first time, hairdressers didn't have job security."

Julz had to shut down her salon and go on unemployment benefits for the first time. She also had to figure out how she was going to support herself, her staff and her business during this difficult time. But many other beauty industry professionals didn't have access to the resources they needed, so Julz decided to help.

"My business partner and I began teaching basic financial literacy to other beauty industry professionals," she says. "Transitioning our business from behind the chair to an online academy was a challenge we tackled head-on so that we could move hairdressers into this new space of education, and create a more accessible curriculum to better serve our industry.

Julz connected with a TurboTax Live expert who helped her understand how unemployment affected her taxes and gave her guidance on filing quarterly estimated taxes for her small business. "I was terrified to sit at a computer and tackle this mess of receipts," Julz says, so "it was great to have some virtual handholding to walk me through each question."

In addition to giving Julz the personalized tax advice she needed, TurboTax Live surprised her with a "little lift" that empowered her to help even more beauty professionals. "When my tax expert Diana surprised me with a little lift, I was moved to tears," says Julz. "With that little lift, I was able to establish a scholarship fund to help get other hairdressers the education they deserve."


Alana, new mom

Alana welcomed her first child in 2020. "I think my biggest challenge was figuring out how to be a mom, with no guidance," she says. "My original plan was to have my mom by my side, teaching me the ropes, but because of COVID, she wasn't able to come out here."

She was also without a job for most of 2020 and struggled to find something new.

So, Alana took it as a sign: she decided to launch her own business so she could support her new baby, and that's exactly what she did. She started a feel-good company that specializes in creating affirmation card decks — and she's currently in the process of starting a second, video-editing business.

TurboTax Live answered Alana's questions about her taxes and gave her some much-needed advice as she prepared to launch her businesses. Thanks to their "little lift," they provided her with a little emotional support too.

"I got my mom a plane ticket to finally [have her] meet [my daughter] for her first birthday," Alana says. "I was also able to get a new computer," which helped her invest in her new business and work on her video editing skills. "It's helped my family and me so much," she says.


Michael, science teacher

When schools shut down across the country last year, Michael had to learn how to adapt to a virtual classroom.

"As a teacher, I had to completely revamp everything," he says, so that he could keep his students engaged while teaching online. "At the beginning, it was a nightmare because I had no idea. I had to go from A-Z within a couple of weeks."

Michael's TurboTax Live expert answered his questions about how working from home affected his taxes and helped him uncover surprising tax deductions. To top it all off, his expert surprised him with brand new science equipment and supplies, which allowed him to create an entire line of classes on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. "Now I can truly potentially reach millions of children with my lessons," he says. "I would never have taken that leap if not for the little lift from TurboTax Live."



Ricky, motivational youth speaker

As a motivational speaker, Ricky was used to doing his job in person, but, he says, "when COVID-19 hit, it altered my ability to travel and visit schools in person [because] schools moved to fully virtual or hybrid models."

He knew he had to pivot — so he began offering small virtual group workshops for student leadership groups at middle and high schools.

"This allowed me to work with student leaders to plan how they would continue making a positive impact on their school community," he says. He wasn't sure how being remote would affect his taxes, but TurboTax Live Self-Employed gave him the advice and answers that he needed to keep more money in his pocket at tax time — and the little lift he received from them has helped him serve even more students.

"[It] has been a major blessing," he says "There will be multiple schools and student groups from across the country that I can hold leadership workshops with to empower them with the tools to be inspirational leaders in their school, community, and world."

Plus, he says, it was great knowing he had an expert to help him figure out how being remote affected his taxes. "I felt confident and assured in the process of filing my taxes knowing I had an expert working with me, says Ricky. "There were things my expert knew that I would not have considered when filing on my own."

Filing your taxes doesn't have to be intimidating, especially after a year like 2020. TurboTax Live experts can give you the "little lift" you need to get your taxes done. File with the help of an expert or let an expert file for you! Go to TurboTax Live to get started.