Militia members have reportedly taken over a federal wildlife building in Oregon in protest of ranchers facing jail time for arson. Now, the FBI have gotten involved in the armed standoff.
The occupation of the building is led by Ammon Bundy, the son of Cliven Bundy, who was previously involved in a government standoff over unpaid grazing fees on federal land in Nevada. Ammon is joined in the occupation by his two brothers, who are calling on militia members from across the United States to join them in seizing the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge building in Southeast Oregon.
“We’re planning on staying here for years,” Ammon told The Oregonian, adding that this is “not a decision we’ve made at the last minute.”
The Bundy family began the occupation on Jan. 2 after approximately 300 militia members and locals marched through Burns, Oregon, to protest the jailing of Harney County ranchers Dwight Hammond Jr., 73, and Steven Hammond, 46. The ranchers are set to report to prison on Jan. 4, The Oregonian reports.
The ranchers were convicted of arson after they set fires in 2001 and 2006 to protect their land from wildfires and to prevent the growth of invasive crops. The two served jail time for their conviction in 2012 -- three months for the father and one year for the son.
A judge reportedly said that the time spent in prison was not enough for the ranchers under federal law, and he sentenced them each to four more years in jail. Dwight Hammond Jr. said that he and his son plan to report to prison peacefully as they were ordered to do.
Despite the Hammond family's compliance with the judge, the Bundy family and militia members are demanding they be released. They are also calling for the federal government to surrender control of the Malheur National Forest. It is currently unknown how many people are in the wildlife building, but they are armed, according to Good Morning America.
According to Ammon, there are many people willing to fight, and even die, to protect the rights of the ranchers.
“What we’re doing is not rebellious,” Ammon told The Oregonian. “What we’re doing is in accordance with the Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land.”
Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward told people to keep away from the wildlife building as law enforcement officials defuse the situation, according to The Oregonian.
"A collective effort from multiple agencies is currently working on a solution,” Ward said in a statement. “For the time being please stay away from that area. More information will be provided as it becomes available. Please maintain a peaceful and united front and allow us to work through this situation.”
According to Ammon, his goal and the goal of the militia is to get the federal government to turn over the land to local Oregonian ranchers, miners, and loggers. He said that he went to meet with locals in Burns on Jan. 1 before the protests began to recruit them, but they declined his invitation.
“They were not strong enough to make the stand," Ammon added.
Among those who have joined Ammon in his protests is U.S. Army veteran Ryan Payne, who said he helped organize militia snipers to target federal authorities in a standoff in Nevada last year.
Another militia member joining Ammon and Payne is Blaine Cooper, who also said that he was part of the Nevada standoff in defense of Cliven Bundy.
“I went there to defend Cliven with my life,” Cooper said in a community meeting Jan. 1.
The FBI has now taken the lead in monitoring the situation, according to Good Morning America.