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

  • Deadly California warehouse fire: Party venue problems included makeshift wooden stairs

    World News CBC News
    Fire crews worked through the night and into Sunday morning in Oakland, Calif., following a deadly warehouse party fire on Friday night. Nine people are confirmed dead and dozens of others remain unaccounted for. Crews set up powerful lights so they could better see the burned-out building in the Fruitvale district, but the threat of a building collapse has been slowing recovery work. Source
  • California warehouse fire kills at least 24, search for victims could last days

    World News CBC News
    Fire crews worked through the night and into Sunday morning in Oakland, Calif., following a deadly warehouse party fire on Friday night. Nine people are confirmed dead and dozens of others remain unaccounted for. Crews set up powerful lights so they could better see the burned-out building in the Fruitvale district, but the threat of a building collapse has been slowing recovery work. Source
  • Imprisoned former CIA officer fights conviction over leak

    World News CTV News
    RICHMOND, Va. -- Once an employee of the powerful CIA, Jeffrey Sterling now sits behind bars at a federal prison in Colorado. He bides his time by reading and writing and working at the facility's recreational centre. Source
  • High-stakes referendum: Is Italy next in line for populist shock?

    World News CBC News
    Italians were voting Sunday in a referendum on constitutional reforms that is being closely watched abroad to see if Italy becomes the next country to reject the political status quo. Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has said he will resign if the reforms are rejected, and opposition politicians have vowed to press for a new government if voters reject the proposed constitutional changes. Source
  • Serial tire slasher caught on camera

    Canada News CTV News
    A suspected serial tire-slasher in a Surrey, B.C. neighbourhood has been captured on security video, after destroying the tires of several residents. More than a dozen local residents have fallen victim to the suspect, who has not yet been caught. Source
  • Trump faces pushback from base, allies amid Romney musings

    World News CTV News
    NEW YORK -- As President-elect Donald Trump stood onstage during the debut night of his "Thank you" tour and teased that he was about to announce a surprise Cabinet pick, some in the Ohio crowd bellowed: "No Romney! No Romney!" Source
  • Syrian army tells rebels in Aleppo to leave or die

    World News CTV News
    ALEPPO, Syria -- The Syrian army on Sunday ordered rebels in Aleppo to leave the city or face "inevitable death," as a series of airstrikes on an opposition-held town elsewhere in the country killed 21 people, including three children. Source
  • Europe eyes Austrian election as bellwether for future of EU

    World News CTV News
    VIENNA -- With voting well underway, much of Europe was waiting for results of Austrian presidential elections Sunday between a left-leaning candidate and a right-wing populist as an indicator of how well other euroskeptic candidates will do elsewhere in the European Union next year. Source
  • 'I never stayed to see if they were dead': Natalia Bolivar, 82, unsentimental about role in Cuban Revolution

    World News CBC News
    With the help of her walker, 82-year-old Natalia Bolivar slowly shuffles over to the rocking chair in her Havana apartment, gently lowers herself onto the cushioned seat and proceeds to talk about her expertise in art, culture and hand grenades. Source
  • Authorities to conditionally move from bridge near pipeline protest

    World News CTV News
    MANDAN, N.D. -- North Dakota authorities have said they'll move away from a key bridge near the main Dakota Access pipeline protest camp by Sunday afternoon if demonstrators agree to certain conditions. A Morton County Sheriff's Office news release details the conditions as outlined Saturday by Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney. Source