Militants seize federal wildlife refuge in OR - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Copy-Militants seize federal wildlife refuge in OR

(RNN) - A group of militants broke into and seized the federally owned headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, The Portland Oregonian reports.

The occupation came after a group of 300, including both militia and community members, gathered Saturday in Burns, OR,  for a peaceful protest of the the prosecution of local ranchers Dwight Hammond Jr, and Steven Hammond, who said they will report to prison Monday.

The Oregon State Police, the Harney County (OR) Sheriff's Office and the FBI are involved.

The Oregonian reports at least two of the protesters are the sons of Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher at the center of a 2014 standoff with the Bureau of Land Management over grazing rights. Ammon and Ryan Bundy are among the hard-core militiamen who claimed to have as many as 100 supporters with them and vowed to occupy the federal outpost, 50 miles southeast of Burns, for years.

"The facility has been the tool to do all the tyranny that has been placed upon the Hammonds," Ammon Bundy said in a phone interview from inside the occupied building Saturday night. "We're planning on staying here for years, absolutely. This is not a decision we've made at the last minute."

The Hammonds were accused of arson after a prescribed burn on their land got out of hand in 2001, burning 127 acres. Prosecutors say the fire was started to cover up poaching. Both men have served 90 days in jail, but now the federal government has sentenced them to finish their five-year terms

Ryan Bundy said the militant group is not holding hostages but members are demanding the Hammonds be released and the federal government give up control of Malheur National Forest. He said he and others are willing to fight to the death to defend what they say are constitutionally protected rights for states, counties and individuals to manage local lands.

In a video posted to Bundy Ranch's Facebook page, said the group will leave the area "when the people of Harney County can use these lands without being put in fear." He elaborated on the situation in the video:

Source: Facebook

The group wants to see ranchers, loggers and miners reclaim their land from the government and that the wildlife refuge be shut down, with the government relinquishing its control, Ryan Bundy said. 

Ammon Bundy did not explicitly call on authorities to commute the Hammonds' sentences, but he said their case illustrates the federal government's "abuse" of power, CNN reports. He added that the Malheur national Wildlife Refuge has taken over the space of 100 ranches since the early 1900s. 

Ryan Payne, a U.S. Army veteran who has claimed to have helped organize militia snipers in the Nevada standoff, is among the militants, along with Blaine Cooper, another militia leader.

The Oregonian reports that they and others have been in Burns for weeks, questioning locals who were critical of the militia's presence. 

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