MILI­TIA SEIZES REFUGE

Armed pro­test­ers in Ore­gon take over wildlife head­quar­ters to sup­port re­sen­tenced ranch­ers.

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Re­becca Boone

burns, ore.» 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 par­tic­i­pat­ing.

Am­mon Bundy posted a video on his Face­book page ask­ing for mili­tia mem­bers to come help him. Bundy and other mili­tia mem­bers came to Burns last month, a small town about 280 miles south­east of Port­land. They were up­set over the loom­ing prison sen­tences for ranch­ers Dwight and Steven Ham­mond. They went to the wildlife refuge Satur­day evening af­ter 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 such as 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.

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 over­throw the county and fed­eral gov­ern­ment in hopes to spark a move­ment across the United States,” Ward said in a state­ment on Sun­day af­ter­noon.

The sher­iff says he is work­ing with lo­cal and fed­eral au­thor­i­ties to keep the cit­i­zens in his county safe and to re­solve the sit­u­a­tion as quickly and peace­fully as pos­si­ble. He is ask­ing peo­ple to stay away from the Mal­heur Na­tional Wildlife Refuge for their own safety. He said he does not think any other parts of the county are in im­me­di­ate dan­ger.

Beth Anne Steele, an FBI spokes­woman in Port­land, said the agency was aware of the sit­u­a­tion at the na­tional wildlife refuge. She made no fur­ther com­ment.

U.S. Sen. Ron Wy­den, who had been briefed by the FBI agent in charge in Port­land, said most lo­cal res­i­dents do not sup­port the pro­test­ers.

“The over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of peo­ple there very much want to get on with their lives with­out this dis­rup­tion and are not in sym­pa­thy with a bunch of out­siders,” Wy­den told The As­so­ci­ated Press.

Pro­test­ers march along Court Av­enue in Burns, Ore., on Satur­day. They are up­set over the loom­ing prison sen­tences for ranch­ers Dwight and Steven Ham­mond. Les Zaitz, The Ore­go­nian

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