U.S. feds monitoring armed anti-government group in Oregon, from a distance

BURNS, Ore. -- An armed anti-government group took over a remote national wildlife refuge in Oregon as part of a decades-long fight over public lands in the West, while federal authorities are keeping watch but keeping their distance.

See Full Article

The group came to the frozen high desert of eastern Oregon to contest the prison sentences of two ranchers who set fire to federal land, but their ultimate goal is to turn over the property to local authorities so people can use it free of U.S. oversight.

People across the globe have marveled that federal authorities didn't move to take back the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Residents say they have not seen a large presence of officers, and the government's tactic generally is to monitor protesters from afar but leave them be as long as they don't show signs of violence.

That's how federal officials defused a high-profile 2014 standoff with Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy over grazing rights. Now, Bundy's two sons are leading the push in Oregon.

Ryan Bundy told The Associated Press on Sunday that he hopes the takeover will prompt others to take action across the country to seize control of federally managed land.

"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, miners can use their mineral rights, loggers can cut trees, and hunters and fishers can shoot and cast, he said.

The latest dispute traces its roots to the 1970s and the "Sagebrush Rebellion," a move by Western states like Nevada to increase local control over federal land. While ranchers and others complain of onerous federal rules, 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.

Residents of the tiny town of Burns, 30 miles south of the wildlife refuge, are concerned about the potential for violence.

Keith Landon, a longtime resident and employee at the Reid Country Store, said he knows local law enforcement officials who fear their kids will be targeted by the group.

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

If the situation turns violent, Bundy contends that 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," he said.

The ranchers whose cause has been the rallying cry also reject the group's support. Dwight and son Steven Hammond were convicted of arson three years ago for fires on federal land in 2001 and 2006. They served their original sentences -- Dwight, three months and Steven, one year -- but a judge ruled 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 Bundy brothers say the group plans to stay at the refuge as long as it takes. They declined to say how many people were at the property where several pickup trucks blocked the entrance and armed men wore camouflage and winter gear.

"We're planning on staying here for years, absolutely," Ammon Bundy told reporters over the weekend. "This is not a decision we've made at the last minute."

The FBI is working with local and state authorities to "bring a peaceful resolution to the situation," the bureau said in a statement late Sunday. It said it is the agency in charge and would not release details about the law enforcement response to ensure the safety of officers and those at the refuge.

Some are criticizing the lack of action, saying it is because those occupying the property are white.

Landon, the longtime Burns resident, said he sympathizes with the Bundys' frustrations. Landon was a logger until the federal government declared the spotted owl a protected species in the 1980s, damaging the local logging industry.

"It's hard to discredit what they're trying to do out there. But I don't want anybody hurt," he said.

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

"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 Sunday.

However, most of the hotels in the area are booked, and he's noticed that officers are doing their patrols in pairs instead of alone. The biggest difference since the takeover is the undercurrent of worry, he said.

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



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Ousted Malaysia PM formally questioned about looting of state fund

    World News CBC News
    Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak was grilled for more than four hours Tuesday over a corruption scandal that could lead to criminal charges against him, while the country's new anti-graft chief said investigations into the case were suppressed by intimidation during Najib's rule. Source
  • Toronto police arrest man suspected in transit stabbings

    Canada News CTV News
    Toronto police have arrested a man alleged to have stabbed two people while using the city's transit system. The first incident happened early Sunday morning on a Toronto Transit Commission bus in the city's west end. Source
  • Heatwave in Pakistan's Karachi kills 65 amid power cuts

    World News CTV News
    KARACHI, Pakistan - A Pakistani welfare organization says the heatwave gripping the region amid widespread power cuts has killed 65 people in Karachi. Anwar Kazmi, a spokesman for the private group Edhi, which is also the country's largest ambulance service, said on Tuesday that their morgue received 65 bodies over the past four days, including of people who died after losing consciousness on the streets. Source
  • Ontario party leaders campaigning in the GTA

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO - With a little more than two weeks left before Ontario voters cast their ballots on June 7, all three major party leaders will stick close to the Greater Toronto Area today. Liberal leader Kathleen Wynne will make an announcement at a mental health hospital in Toronto before heading to a downtown variety store and an evening interview with TV network CP24. Source
  • Canadians stranded in Cuba after plane crash begin returning home

    Canada News CTV News
    MONTREAL - A Montreal-based travel agency says hundreds of Canadians who were stuck in Cuba since a plane crash last week are returning home. Caribe Sol said Monday that Cubana Airlines was resuming operations after the passenger jet crash on Friday killed 111 people. Source
  • Trump fundraiser sought to leverage access to Oval Office for fortune in contracts from Persian Gulf

    World News CBC News
    In a pursuit of money and influence that began at U.S. President Donald Trump's inauguration, two American businessmen sought to leverage connections that stretched from Persian Gulf palaces to the Oval Office into more than a billion dollars in contracts. Source
  • Man ordered free decades later in murder case of pizza deliveryman

    World News CTV News
    BATON ROUGE, La. - A Louisiana judge has ordered the release of an inmate whose attorneys have accused prosecutors of withholding "staggering" evidence of the man's innocence in a pizza deliveryman's killing two decades ago. Source
  • Foreign media arrive for North Korea nuclear site closing

    World News CTV News
    WONSAN, Korea, Democratic People's Republic Of - Foreign journalists have arrived in North Korea to cover the dismantling of the country's nuclear test site later this week. South Korean media initially scheduled to join were not allowed onto Tuesday's charter flight from Beijing. Source
  • Depression preceded fatal crash into N.C. restaurant, pastor says

    World News CTV News
    BESSEMER CITY, N.C. - A North Carolina man accused of crashing a car into a restaurant table full of loved ones, killing two, had suffered for weeks with depression and previously asked his family to take his guns away, his pastor says. Source
  • Australian archbishop convicted of child sex abuse cover-up

    World News CBC News
    An Australian archbishop who was the most senior Roman Catholic cleric in the world charged with covering up child sex abuse was convicted Tuesday and faces a potential two years in prison. Magistrate Robert Stone handed down the verdict against Archbishop of Adelaide Philip Wilson in Newcastle Local Court, north of Sydney, following a magistrate-only trial. Source