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Leader of armed group wants land transfer, then will go home

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  • Ammon Bundy, center, one of the sons of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, walked off after speaking with reporters during a news conference at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters on Monday, near Burns, Ore. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

BURNS, Ore. » A leader of the small armed group that has been occupying a remote national wildlife refuge in Oregon said Tuesday that they will go home when a plan to turn over management of federal lands to locals is implemented.

Ammon Bundy — one of the sons of rancher Cliven Bundy, who was involved in a 2014 Nevada standoff with the government over grazing rights — told reporters at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge that ranchers, loggers and farmers should have control of federal lands.

Bundy offered few specifics of the group’s plan, but LaVoy Finicum, a rancher from Arizona, said the group would examine the underlying land ownership transactions to begin to “unwind it.”

Finicum said he was eager to leave Oregon.

“I need to get home,” he said. “I’ve got cows that are scattered and lost.”

As of Tuesday morning, authorities had not shut off power to the refuge, Finicum said.

“If they cut it off, that would be such a crying shame, all the pipes would freeze.”

As the occupation entered its third day, Ammon Bundy said the group felt it had the support of the local community.

However, the county sheriff has told the roughly 20 people to go home and a community meeting was scheduled for Tuesday afternoon.

While the anti-government group is critical of federal stewardship of lands, environmentalists and others say officials should run the lands for the broadest possible benefit of business, recreation and the environment.

So far, law enforcement has not taken action against the group of about two dozen activists opposing the imprisonment of father-and-son ranchers who set fire to federal land.

“These guys are out in the middle of nowhere, and they haven’t threatened anybody that I know of,” said Jim Glennon, a longtime police commander who now owns the Illinois-based law enforcement training organization Calibre Press. “There’s no hurry.”

Some observers have complained, suggesting the government’s response would have been swifter and more severe had the occupants been Muslim or other minorities.

The activists seized the refuge about 300 miles from Portland on Saturday night as part of a decades-long fight over public lands in the West.

They said they want 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 were convicted of arson three years ago for fires on federal land in 2001 and 2006, one of which was set to cover up deer poaching, according to prosecutors. The men served no more than a year until an appeals court judge ruled the terms fell short of minimum sentences that require them to serve about four more years.

Their sentences were a rallying cry for the group calling itself Citizens for Constitutional Freedom, whose mostly male members said they want federal lands turned over to local authorities so people can use them free of U.S. oversight.

The Hammonds have distanced themselves from the protest group. Many locals don’t want the activists here, fearing they may bring trouble.

Seeds of the dispute date back decades in the West, where the federal government owns about half of all land.

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.

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  • Working legally and through the system to change laws when doing so serves the interests of the majority is the way we do thinks in a democracy. Threats of violence and anti-American agitation is not what we need.

        • They are not terrorists at all and have not threatened anybody. However, what they did in terms of occupying a federal building is illegal. When the time is right, deal with it in the courts. Do not confuse this with Jihadi terrorism hon. Nothing to do with race and everything to do with actions and justification.

      • And sometimes it end badly with people on both sides of the law who are killed or gravely injured in incidents such as Ruby Ridge or Waco, Texas……..

  • These donkeys are itching for a gun battle … give um one. Tough guys when they’re in a group, catch them alone and they squeal like little babies. This country is being ruined by scared greedy middle aged white men, and if you’re offended by that, good, you haven’t been watching the news. The every people that bark about their rights being violated, dont give a flying —- about native peoples who’ve been trampled on in America for decades. Incidentally, I’m part white so dont pull out the race card, this is simple fact.

    • Almost the the Mauna Kea situation except they have seized a Federal building which is illegal. Perhaps if it was a non-white they could have been a violent confrontation on the other hand things have changed for the good or bad depends on how one looks at it. Remember the religious group where there many killed and injured including the leader or the Idaho state radical group shoot-out. So have we become more passive and willing to yield rather confront??

  • After the lessons of Ruby Ridge and Waco Branch Davidians the Fed would best surround the area and let them starve. Upon surrendering they will be taken to a room out of public sight and be beaten up to show them what bad lawbreakers they have been. The law must be obeyed or they will be by force. Your move. Poor frustrated hicks.

  • The only entity that actually holds a legitimate claim to that refuge is the northern Paiute Indian tribe. That track of land was promised to them by U.S. Grant in perpetuity in 1872 – of course “perpetuity” lasted all of 6 years after ranchers and settlers overtook the reservation and the Paiutes were forced onto a small 760 acre plot of “bad land” at the north end of their reservation. The armed clowns there now are just a bunch of welfare kings from outside areas who think they should be able to graze their stock wherever they want on public land for free and who are not even from the immediate area.

  • I want vast acreage to be transfered to me. Let’s see, get guns,get thugs,invade Native American lands, then claim ranchers rights. Oh wait I need a cow. Hey, I thought ranchers work so hard they don’t have time for shennanigans?

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