On January 2nd, a group of armed “militia men” broke into and took over the headquarters and visitors’ center of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Harney County, Oregon. As of this writing, no law enforcement action has been taken against them, though the County Sheriff has said that “a collective effort from multiple agencies is currently working on a solution” which includes the FBI.
The stated reason for the take-over was to protest the imminent imprisonment of two local ranchers – Dwight Hammond, Jr., and his son, Steven – for committing arson on public lands in 2001 and 2006. The Hammonds did not solicit the attention of the militia men, who all are reportedly from out of state.
Two of the militia men are Ryan and Ammon Bundy, son of Cliven Bundy, the rancher who, in 2014, famously prevented the Bureau of Land Management from removing his cattle that were illegally grazing on public lands. In an interview with the Oregonian, Ryan said: “The best possible outcome is that the ranchers that have been kicked out of the area… will come back and reclaim their land, and the wildlife refuge will be shut down forever and the federal government will relinquish such control.”
Ammon Bundy characterized the building as “the tool to do all the tyranny that has been placed upon the Hammonds” and the refuge as “destructive to the people of the county and to the people of the area.”
The Bundys have stated that they are prepared to occupy the building “for years” if necessary, and that they “would not rule out violence if law enforcement tries to remove them.”
This is a provocative action and inflammatory language, especially coming from people with guns.