Armed pro­test­ers at Ore­gon wildlife refuge call mili­tia from around na­tion to join them

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - WORLD - THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

The re­mote high desert of east­ern Ore­gon be­came the lat­est flash­point for anti-gov­ern­ment sen­ti­ment as armed pro­test­ers oc­cu­pied a na­tional wildlife refuge to ob­ject to a prison sen­tence for lo­cal ranch­ers for burn­ing fed­eral land.

Am­mon Bundy — the son of Ne­vada rancher Cliven Bundy, who was in­volved in a 2014 stand­off with the gov­ern­ment over graz­ing rights — is among the peo­ple at the head­quar­ters of the Mal­heur Na­tional Wildlife Refuge. It was un­clear ex­actly how many peo­ple were tak­ing part in the protests.

Am­mon Bundy posted a video on his Face­book page ask­ing for mili­tia mem­bers to come help him. He said “this is not a time to stand down. It’s a time to stand up and come to Har­ney County,’’ where Burns is lo­cated.

Bundy and other mili­tia mem­bers came to Burns last month, a small town about 280 miles south­east of Port­land, Ore­gon. They were up­set over the loom­ing prison sen­tences for lo­cal ranch­ers Dwight and Steven Ham­mond. They went to the wildlife refuge Satur­day evening fol­low­ing a peace­ful rally in Burns to sup­port the ranch­ers.

Dwight Ham­mond, 73, and Steven Ham­mond, 46, said they lit the fires on fed­eral land in 2001 and 2006 to re­duce the growth of in­va­sive plants and pro­tect their property from wild­fires.

The two were con­victed of the ar­sons three years ago and served time — the fa­ther three months, the son one year. But a fed­eral judge ruled in Oc­to­ber that their terms were too short un­der U.S. min­i­mum sen­tenc­ing law and or­dered them back to prison for about four years each.

The de­ci­sion gen­er­ated con­tro­versy and is part of a decades-long dis­pute be­tween some West­ern­ers and the fed­eral gov­ern­ment over the use of pub­lic lands. The is­sue traces back to the 1970s and the “Sage­brush Re­bel­lion,’’ a move by Western states like Ne­vada to in­crease lo­cal con­trol over fed­eral land. Crit­ics of the push for more lo­cal con­trol have said the fed­eral gov­ern­ment should ad­min­is­ter the pub­lic lands for the widest pos­si­ble uses, in­clud­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal and recre­ation.

In an in­ter­view with re­porters late Satur­day night posted on Face­book, Bundy said he and oth­ers are oc­cu­py­ing a build­ing at the refuge be­cause “the peo­ple have been abused long enough.’’ “I feel we are in a sit­u­a­tion where if we do not do some­thing, if we do not take a hard stand, we’ll be in a po­si­tion where we’ll be no longer able to do so,’’ he said.

Bundy said the group planned to stay at the refuge in­def­i­nitely. On Sun­day, sup­plies were seen be­ing de­liv­ered to the refuge area, which is re­mote even by ru­ral Ore­gon stan­dards.

Dwight Ham­mond has said he and his son plan to peace­fully re­port to prison Mon­day as or­dered by the judge.

Har­ney County Sher­iff Dave Ward said the group of armed pro­test­ers came to town un­der false pre­tenses.

“Th­ese men came to Har­ney County claim­ing to be part of mili­tia groups sup­port­ing lo­cal ranch­ers, when in re­al­ity th­ese men had al­ter­na­tive mo­tives to at­tempt to over throw the county and fed­eral gov­ern­ment in hopes to spark a move­ment across the United States,’’ Ward said in a state­ment on Sun­day af­ter­noon.

AP PHOTO

Pro­test­ers march on Court Av­enue in sup­port of an Ore­gon ranch­ing fam­ily fac­ing jail time for ar­son in Burns, Ore., Satur­day.

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