Self-styled militiamen occupied the headquarters of a US wildlife refuge in eastern Oregon, in a standoff with authorities, officials and local media reports said yesterday, in the latest dispute over federal land use in the West.
The occupation, which began on Saturday, followed a march in Burns, a small city 80km north of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. The march protested the incarceration of ranchers Dwight Hammond Jr and his son, Steven Hammond. The two were convicted in 2012 of setting fires on public land to protect their property from wildfires.
A federal court had ordered the Hammonds to be returned to prison, after ruling their original sentences were insufficient.
An unknown number of protesters were occupying the refuge’s headquarters building in Princeton yesterday, according to Jason Holm, a spokesman for the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Land Management. No employees were in the building, he said.
Militia leaders said as many as 100 supporters were with them at the refuge.
Leaders of the occupation include Ammon Bundy, the son of Cliven Bundy, owner of a ranch in Nevada, where his family staged an armed protest in April, 2014.
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