- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 3, 2016

Armed anti-government militants who took over an unoccupied national wildlife refuge headquarters in rural Oregon said Sunday that they have no intention of engaging in violence unless the federal government comes after them.

“We’re not putting anybody at risk right now. We’re not endangering anybody, we’re not harming anybody. So if they did, it would be simply over a building that they would come in and kill,” Ammon Bundy, spokesman for the occupying group, said at a press conference Sunday outside the compound.

Meanwhile, Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward said multiple agencies were negotiating with the armed protesters, led by Mr. Bundy, the son of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who drew headlines for a lengthy 2014 standoff with federal agents over grazing rights.

FBI agents flew to the eastern Oregon refuge to take control of the standoff, according to Portland TV station KOIN.

“In reality, these men had alternative motives to attempt to overthrow the county and federal government in hopes to spark a movement across the United States,” Sheriff Ward said in a statement, according to The Oregonian.

Ammon Bundy would not disclose how many people were in the group, which took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge after about 300 demonstrators rallied Saturday in support of two Harney County ranchers, Dwight Hammond Jr., 73, and Steven Hammond, 46.

The Hammonds are scheduled to report to prison Monday on arson convictions stemming from incidents in 2001 and 2006 involving controlled burns that spread to federal land.

Mr. Bundy said he and other militants, who reportedly include two of his brothers, decided to take over the headquarters after what he described as efforts by the wildlife refuge to push out the Hammonds.

“This refuge right here is rightfully owned by the people,” Mr. Ammon said. “The [Hammond] ranch is adjacent to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge … They have refused for nearly 40 years to sell their ranch, and there have been very vindictive behaviors because they refused, and there have been intimidations and the list goes on.”

As to how long the group planned to occupy the building, he said, “as long as is necessary,” which he added could be years.

He said the group’s goal is “to see the people of Harney County back using their rights again under their claim, not as permittees, not as a privilege, but as a right. And to get the economics here in the county revived again, get it hopping again.”

The sheriff said it was outsiders, not locals, who seized and occupied the refuge headquarters, while Ammon Bundy said the group was receiving support in the form of supplies from the local community. The refuge is about 30 miles from Burns, Oregon.

The FBI is reportedly leading the negotiations in the standoff, which comes as the latest conflict over federal management of rural lands stemming from the Sagebrush Rebellion movement of the 1970s.

In a video posted on his Facebook page, Ammon Bundy asked militia members to come help him, saying, “[T]his is not a time to stand down. It’s a time to stand up and come to Harney County.”

“All patriots its time to stand up not stand down!!! We need your help!!! Come prepared,” the post screams in all capital letters.

A post on the Bundy Ranch Facebook page says, “BREAKING! SHARE! Standing for the rights of Men & Women. Calling all freedom loving people to come to Harney County Oregon, come to the Malhuer [sic] Wildlife Refuge. The people are finally getting some good use out of a federal facility.”

The Hammonds have already served time for arson charges stemming from 2001 and 2006 incidents in which they undertook prescribed burns to get rid of invasive weeds that spread to federal land. In the 2001 incident, 127 acres were burned, which prosecutors said was an effort to cover up poaching.

The father served three months and the son one year. Later, however, a judge determined that their sentences were too short under federal law and ordered them to return to prison for about four years each.

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