Oregon town on edge as armed protesters take over wildlife refuge

BURNS, Ore. -- People in this rural eastern Oregon town are used to worrying about friction between the federal government and locals, but the armed takeover of a nearby national wildlife refuge is raising concerns to a new high.

See Full Article

Keith Landon, a longtime resident of Burns and employee at the Reid Country Store, said he knows local law enforcement officials who fear their kids will be targeted by angry militia members. The mother of one of his kids is now involved with an officer, Landon said, and they decided to send their children to another town after they were allegedly threatened by an angry protester.

"I'm hoping most of it's just muscle, trying to push," Landon said. "But it's a scary thing."

Armed protesters took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge south of Burns on Saturday after participating in a peaceful rally over the prison sentences of local ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond.

The Hammonds were convicted of arson three years ago for fires that burned on federal land in 2001 and 2006. Though they served their original sentences for the conviction - Dwight serving three months, Steven serving one year - an appellate judge ruled in October that the terms were too short under federal minimum sentencing laws.

Both men were ordered back to prison for four years each. They have said they plan to turn themselves in Monday.

The decision to send the man back to prison generated controversy and is part of a decades-long dispute between some Westerners and the federal government over the use of public lands.

Brothers Ammon and Ryan Bundy are among those occupying the refuge. Their father, Cliven Bundy, was involved in a 2014 standoff with the government over grazing rights in Nevada.

Ryan Bundy told The Associated Press Sunday he hopes to turn the land over to local authorities so people can use it free of federal oversight. He said he hopes the takeover of the property will prompt others to take action across the country to seize local control of federally managed land. Ammon Bundy has previously called on members of militia groups to take a stand with those at the refuge.

On Sunday afternoon, several pickup trucks blocked the entrance to the refuge and armed men wearing camouflage and winter gear used radios to alert those at the refuge buildings when reporters were allowed onto the property.

A small flock of pheasants wandered across the refuge driveway, scattering as men driving utility vehicles traversed the property. Ryan Bundy declined to say how many people were at the site.

"The end goal here is that we are here to restore the rights to the people here so that they can use the land and resources. All of them," Bundy said. That means ranchers can graze their cattle on the land, miners can use their mineral rights, loggers can cut trees and hunters and fishers can recreate, he said.

He said they planned on staying at the refuge as long as it takes. If the situation turns violent, Bundy contends it will be because of the federal government's actions.

"I mean, we're here to restore order, we're here to restore rights and that can go peacefully and easily," Bundy said.

Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward said in a statement Sunday that 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.

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.

At a restaurant near the refuge Sunday, a local man eating supper said he understood the sentiment but didn't necessarily support the methods of the group. He wouldn't give his name because he said he feared being caught between the federal government and the militia.

Landon, who was a logger until the federal government declared the spotted owl a protected species in the 1980s, damaging the local logging industry, said he also sympathizes with the frustrations expressed by the Bundys.

"The spotted owl started the downfall of our community, then (President) Clinton made the Steens Mountains a wilderness area or whatever. Five generations of ranchers that had been on the Steens, kicked them off. And then management of the wildfires, it totally changed the region," Landon said. "It's hard to discredit what they're trying to do out there. But I don't want anybody hurt."

He said on the surface, it doesn't look like much has changed in Burns, a high desert town of about 2,700 people.

Most of the hotels in the area are booked full, and he's noticed that law enforcement officers are now doing their patrols in pairs instead of singly. But the biggest difference since the takeover is the undercurrent of worry, he said.

"It's weird - I woke up this morning expecting the town to be crawling with this and that agency. But you don't see any of it. They're keeping a low presence," Landon said.

Landon was happy the protesters seized land outside of Burns.

"I'm glad they took the refuge because it's 30 miles away. I mean, they could have took the courthouse here in town."



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Vancouver-area peak named for deceased search and rescue volunteer

    Canada News CTV News
    VANCOUVER - A mountain peak on British Columbia's North Shore is being named in honour of a long-time leader in the province's search and rescue community. Premier Christy Clark has announced a 1,425-metre peak northeast of North Vancouver will be called Tim Jones Peak. Source
  • Canadian caught with nearly 60 kilos of cocaine sentenced to 10 years in U.S.

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    A 37-year-old Canadian who was caught with 59 kilos of cocaine has been sentenced to 10 years in jail in U.S. District Court in Seattle. The U.S. Department of Justice said Friday that Martin Briand, who is also a French citizen, was sentenced for conspiracy to distribute cocaine after the cocaine was seized in December 2009. Source
  • Women's March on Washington about much more than Trump

    World News CTV News
    Hundreds of thousands of women plan to march through the streets of the U.S. capital on President Donald Trump’s first full day in office, to send a bold message to the new administration: women’s rights are human rights, and the divisive tone of the campaign will not be tolerated in the nation’s highest office. Source
  • Canada's last Armenian genocide survivor dies at age 107

    Canada News CTV News
    A Montreal woman believed to have been the last Canadian to have survived the Armenian genocide died on Thursday, just weeks shy of her 108th birthday. Born in 1909, Knar Bohjelian Yemenidjian was only six years old in 1915 when the Ottoman Turks began their massacre. Source
  • Trudeau congratulates Trump, citing 'robust' trade and security ties [Photos]

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    OTTAWA — Boost defence spending, dial down the volume on battling climate change and find a bridge or energy project to build together. That was the expert advice Prime Minister Justin Trudeau received Friday on how to get along with new U.S. Source
  • New White House look: Trump gives the Oval Office a makeover

    World News CTV News
    Promises, pomp, protests as Donald Trump sworn in Latest updates: Trumps dance to 'My Way' at inaugural ball Source
  • Clinton-backing NY scalper stuck with Trump inauguration tickets

    World News CTV News
    A New York ticket scalper should have read Trump: The Art of The Deal before attempting to flip a pricey pair of tickets to Friday’s Inauguration Ceremonies in the U.S. Capitol -- especially the passage about knowing your market. Source
  • Trump executive order first strike at killing Obamacare

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- In an opening salvo against Obamacare, President Donald Trump signed an executive order Friday night that appears aimed squarely at the undoing the health care law's unpopular requirement that individuals carry insurance or face fines. Source
  • Allegedly drugged driver hits cop car, overdoses: Vancouver police

    Canada News CTV News
    VANCOUVER - Police in Vancouver are investigating a crash involving a cruiser and a driver who was allegedly under the influence of opioids. Officers say in a news release that a marked police car was stopped in the Downtown Eastside early Friday morning when it was hit from behind by a pickup truck. Source
  • Trudeau holds call with premiers to reassure them over Canada-U.S. relationship

    Canada News CBC News
    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with his provincial and territorial counterparts today in an effort to reassure them about Canada's economic and security relationship with the United States. Trudeau spoke about a number of issues, "in particular," said a statement from the Prime Minister's Office, "the importance of the Canada-U.S. Source