USA TODAY US Edition

Refuge stand­off de­fen­dants in court

- John Ba­con @jm­ba­con USA TO­DAY

The pro­test­ers whose armed siege at an Oregon wildlife refuge last win­ter brought na­tional at­ten­tion to fed­eral land man­age­ment prac­tices in the vast ex­panses of the West are now mak­ing their last stand, in a court­house in Port­land.

The trial be­gan this week for protest leader Am­mon Bundy and six oth­ers charged with con­spir­ing to im­pede fed­eral land man­agers through force and in­tim­i­da­tion. Five of the de­fen­dants also face gun charges.

Bundy’s lawyer, Mar­cus Mum­ford, says the stand­off had noth­ing to do with im­ped­ing fed­eral work­ers and ev­ery­thing to do with de­mand­ing fed­eral ac­count­abil­ity. He told the jury the takeover of ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fices at the Mal­heur Na­tional Wildlife Refuge was an at­tempt at legally tak­ing ti­tle to the land by oc­cu­py­ing it for an ex­tended pe­riod of time.

Pros­e­cu­tor Ge­of­frey Bar­row dis­misses the claims, say­ing the men are be­ing tried not for what they be­lieve but for their ac­tions at the refuge, 300 square miles of wind-swept, high desert in ru­ral eastern Oregon. The 42-day protest made na­tional news but had lit­tle prac­ti­cal im­pact, Notre Dame law pro­fes­sor Bruce Hu­ber told USA TO­DAY. No fed­eral land man­age­ment agency has an­nounced any sweep­ing change in pol­icy.

“If any­thing, of­fi­cials seem to be us­ing more stern lan­guage than be­fore Mal­heur,” Hu­ber said.

Bundy’s group of self-de­scribed pa­tri­ots took con­trol of the refuge Jan. 2 fol­low­ing a lo­cal protest in sup­port of two ranch­ers sent to prison for start­ing fires on fed­eral land. Bundy and many ranch­ers say tough fed­eral re­stric­tions on graz­ing and other uses threaten their way of life.

“Gov­ern­ment is laws, not men,” El­iz­a­beth San­ders, who teaches gov­ern­ment at Cor­nell Univer­sity, told USA TO­DAY. “You work to get laws passed, you make a state­ment with civil dis­obe­di­ence, but you don’t just show up with guns and take what you want. That is not how it works.”

The stand­off turned deadly on Jan. 26 when the group’s spokesman, Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, was fa­tally shot by state po­lice who stopped Finicum, Bundy and sev­eral oth­ers at a road­block.

 ?? DON RYAN, AP ?? Pro­test­ers gather out­side the fed­eral court­house in Port­land, Ore. The trial be­gan this week for protest leader Am­mon Bundy and six oth­ers in the wildlife refugee stand­off.
DON RYAN, AP Pro­test­ers gather out­side the fed­eral court­house in Port­land, Ore. The trial be­gan this week for protest leader Am­mon Bundy and six oth­ers in the wildlife refugee stand­off.

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