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

  • U.S. President Donald Trump on terror attacks: 'I’m 10-0 ... I’ve called every one of them'

    World News Toronto Sun
    A transcript of an Oval Office interview Friday with President Donald Trump by AP White House Correspondent Julie Pace. Where the audio recording of the interview is unclear, ellipses or a notation that the recording was unintelligible are used. Source
  • 3 African countries chosen to test 1st malaria vaccine

    World News CBC News
    In this 2009, file photo, a mother holds her baby receiving a malaria vaccine as part of a trial in Western Kenya. The World Health Organization says three African countries have been chosen to test the world's first malaria vaccine. Source
  • Four-year-old girl falls from moving bus onto busy highway

    World News CTV News
    A local volunteer firefighter and licensed EMT is being hailed a hero after coming to the rescue of a four-year-old girl who fell out of the back of a moving bus. Ryan Ciampoli captured the shocking moment on his vehicle’s dashcam as he drove behind the bus on Highway 65 in Harrison, Ark. Source
  • Sean Hannity calls sexual harassment accusation ’100% false’

    World News Toronto Sun
    NEW YORK — Sean Hannity says accusations of sexual harassment from a former Fox News guest are “100% false and a complete fabrication.” Debbie Schlussel tells Tulsa, Oklahoma, radio station KFAQ that Hannity repeatedly asked her to come to his hotel with him during a book signing event and a broadcast of his show in Detroit. Source
  • Edmonton gas station employee dragged in gas-and-dash

    Canada News CTV News
    RCMP in Edmonton are on the hunt for a man who allegedly ran over a gas station employee during a gas and dash Saturday afternoon. Chu Thai, the manager of the Superstore Gas Bar where the incident took place, told CTV Edmonton the employee attempted to stop a man from leaving the gas station without paying, when the suspect took off. Source
  • EU Commission throws weight behind Macron in French election

    World News CTV News
    BRUSSELS -- The European Union's head office has thrown its weight behind Emmanuel Macron in the French presidential runoff against Marine Le Pen, arguing it is a choice between the defense of the EU or those seeking its destruction. Source
  • Bill O’Reilly to return with new podcast episode Monday

    World News Toronto Sun
    LOS ANGELES — Bill O’Reilly is back and ready to talk. His personal website says the former Fox News host will air a new episode of his “No Spin News” podcast Monday evening. Fox News Channel’s parent company fired O’Reilly on Wednesday following an investigation into sexual harassment allegations by women. Source
  • As budget deadline looms, Trump pushes border wall funding

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- With a budget deadline looming, U.S. President Donald Trump plans a whirlwind of activities seeking to highlight accomplishments while putting fresh pressure on congressional Democrats to pay for a wall on the U.S. Source
  • Hamilton man in naval spy case wants info on CSIS wiretaps of Chinese Embassy

    Canada News CBC News
    A naval engineer from Hamilton, accused of trying to spy for Beijing, is asking a federal judge for full access to information about Canadian Security Intelligence Service wiretaps of the Chinese Embassy. Qing Quentin Huang says federal secrecy has placed him in an "impossible position" as he prepares to defend against espionage charges. Source
  • Haley won’t rule out strike vs North Korea for nuke testing

    World News Toronto Sun
    WASHINGTON — Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, isn’t ruling out a U.S. strike against North Korea if Pyongyang tests another nuclear missile. Haley spoke on several television networks Monday morning, praising China’s involvement in trying to pressure North Korea to cease missile testing and criticized its leader, Kim Jong Un, as unstable and paranoid. Source