Standoff in Oregon continues as armed group fears raid

BURNS, Ore. - The small, armed group occupying a remote national wildlife preserve in Oregon has said repeatedly that local people should control federal lands - a sentiment that frustrates critics who say the lands are already managed to help everyone from ranchers to recreationalists.

See Full Article

With the takeover entering its fourth day Wednesday, authorities had not removed the group of roughly 20 people from the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon's high desert country. But members of the group - some from as far away as Arizona and Michigan - were growing increasingly tense, saying they feared a federal raid.

Arizona rancher LaVoy Finicum said Tuesday evening that he believes federal officials have issued warrants for the arrest of five group members - including himself and Ammon Bundy - but Finicum offered no details.

The FBI in Portland referred calls to the Harney County Joint Information Center, which said in a statement it had no information on arrests or arrest warrants and that authorities were "still working on a peaceful resolution."

Bundy said they would take a defensive position anticipating a possible raid. Late Tuesday, the group moved a large plow vehicle to block the refuge's driveway.

Bundy told reporters Tuesday the group would leave when there was a plan in place to turn over federal lands to locals - a common refrain in a decades-long fight over public lands in the West.

"It is our goal to get the logger back to logging, the rancher back to ranching," said the son of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who was involved in a high-profile 2014 standoff with the government over grazing rights.

The younger Bundy's anti-government group is critical of federal land stewardship. But environmentalists and others say U.S. officials should keep control for the broadest possible benefit to business, recreation and the environment.

Randy Eardley, a Bureau of Land Management spokesman, said the group's call for land ownership transfer didn't make sense.

"It is frustrating when I hear the demand that we return the land to the people, because it is in the people's hand - the people own it," Eardley said. "Everybody in the United States owns that land. ... We manage it the best we can for its owners, the people, and whether it's for recreating, for grazing, for energy and mineral development."

Bob Sallinger, conservation director of the Audubon Society of Portland, said in a statement this week that occupation of the refuge "holds hostage public lands and public resources to serve the very narrow political agenda of the occupiers."

The armed group seized the refuge's headquarters Saturday night. Bundled in camouflage, earmuffs and cowboy hats, they seem to be centred around a complex of buildings on the 776-square-kilometre high desert preserve.

Finicum said the power was still on at buildings at the refuge. "If they cut it off, that would be such a crying shame. All the pipes would freeze," he said.

Ammon Bundy offered few specifics about the group's plan to get the land turned over to local control, but Finicum said they would examine the underlying land ownership transactions to begin to "unwind it."

The federal government controls about half of all land in the West, which would make the wholesale transfer of ownership extremely difficult and expensive.

For example, it owns 53 per cent of Oregon, 85 per cent of Nevada and 66 per cent of Utah, according to the Congressional Research Service. Taking over federal public lands in Idaho could cost the state $111 million a year, according to a University of Idaho study.

Bundy said the group felt it had the support of the local community. But the county sheriff has told the group to go home, and many locals don't want them around, fearing they may bring trouble. A community meeting was scheduled for Wednesday. Harney County Sheriff David Ward said in a statement the meeting was to "talk about their security concerns and the disruptions that the behaviour of the militants on the refuge are causing for our people."

So far, law enforcement hasn't taken action against the group, whose rallying cry is the imprisonment of father-and-son ranchers who set fire to federal land.

The group calling itself Citizens for constitutional Freedom said it wants an inquiry into whether the government is forcing ranchers off their land after Dwight Hammond and his son, Steven, reported back to prison Monday.

The Hammonds, who have distanced themselves from the group, were convicted of arson three years ago and served no more than a year. A judge later ruled the terms fell short of minimum sentences that require them to serve about four more years.

The takeover comes amid a dispute that dates back decades in the West. In the 1970s, Nevada and other states pushed for local control in what was known as the Sagebrush Rebellion. Supporters wanted more land for cattle grazing, mining and timber harvesting.


Associated Press writer Gene Johnson in Seattle contributed to this story.


Latest Canada & World News

  • 911 calls show quick reaction to Florida bridge collapse

    World News CTV News
    MIAMI -- Police and rescue workers arrived at the scene of a pedestrian bridge collapse near a Florida university campus even before witnesses could finish making 911 calls for help, according to audio files released Thursday. Source
  • Florida man reunites with pet cat lost 14 years ago

    World News CTV News
    FORT PIERCE, Fla. -- A Florida man has been reunited with a cat he lost 14 years ago. reports Perry Martin of Fort Pierce said he had assumed his orange tabby named Thomas Jr. Source
  • Several Nigerian schoolgirls did not survive Boko Haram captivity

    World News CBC News
    Just one Nigerian schoolgirl is still held by Boko Haram after the extremists released 104 classmates seized in a mass abduction and she "will not be abandoned," President Muhammadu Buhari said Thursday, with no word on five girls still unaccounted for, but who are said to be dead and buried. Source
  • Trump's lead lawyer in Russia investigation quits

    World News CBC News
    U.S. President Donald Trump's lead lawyer in the special counsel's Russia investigation has resigned amid a shakeup of the president's team, an exit that removes the primary negotiator and legal strategist who had been moulding Trump's defence. Source
  • Investigation into 2015 MMIWG case leads to arrest in Krystal Andrews killing

    Canada News CBC News
    Manitoba RCMP have made an arrest in connection with the killing of Krystal Andrews, a young mother found dead in God's Lake First Nation in 2015, CBC has confirmed. More details about the identity of the person arrested are expected Thursday at 1 p.m. Source
  • Camaro caught speeding at 192 km/h in N.S. school zone

    Canada News CTV News
    RCMP in Nova Scotia had to wait for a white Camaro to stop for gas before they were able to catch up with the driver, who is accused of travelling at 192 km/h in a school zone and ignoring officers’ requests to pull over. Source
  • Mueller examining Cambridge Analytica, Trump campaign ties

    World News CTV News
    Mueller examining Cambridge Analytica, Trump campaign ties Fed up with Facebook? Here's how to break it off Facebook's Zuckerberg sorry for 'major breach of trust' Source
  • Powerful image of Afghan woman nursing baby while taking university exam goes viral

    World News CTV News
    An inspiring photo of a young Afghan woman nursing her child while taking a university entrance exam has struck a chord with people around the world. Jahan Taab was completing a test to gain entry into the social sciences program at Nasirkhosraw Higher Education Institute in Afghanistan’s central Daykundi province on March 16, according to Yahya Erfan, a lecturer who was monitoring the exam. Source
  • John Dowd resigning from Trump's legal team

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- U.S. President Donald Trump's lead lawyer in the special counsel's Russia investigation has resigned amid a shake-up of the president's legal team. Attorney John Dowd confirmed his decision in an email Thursday to The Associated Press, saying, "I love the President and wish him well. Source
  • Former South Korea president Lee Myung-bak arrested on corruption charges

    World News CBC News
    South Korean ex-president Lee Myung-bak was arrested and jailed early Friday over a range of corruption allegations, becoming the latest in a series of disgraced leaders embroiled in scandals and other problems after leaving office. A convoy of vehicles, including a black sedan carrying Lee, entered a detention centre in Seoul after the Seoul Central District Court approved his arrest warrant, citing what it called serious alleged crimes and a possibility that he might try to destroy…