- Adam Rosenlund
Malheur County and Marney County officials are scrambling as a militia group occupies a wildlife refuge headquarters in the eastern Oregon county, The Oregonian reports.
According to a statement from Malheur County Sheriff Dave Ward, "A collective effort from multiple agencies is currently working on a solution."
Following a demonstration of approximately 300 people in Burns, Ore., Jan. 2, members of several militia groups, as well as several members of the Bundy family, drove 30 miles to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters, which they proceeded to occupy. The Bundy family was made famous by a standoff in Nevada between militias and federal officials in 2014.
At issue in Burns are the fates of Dwight and Steven Hammond, scheduled to report to federal prison Monday, Jan. 4, on charges of arson on federal land stemming from 2012. Dwight Hammond, who is Steven's father, is set to serve five years; Steven will serve four years. While the two have already served time for the charges, appellate judges have determined their original sentencing was too lenient and have recalled the pair to prison.
The Hammonds' case has drawn the attention of militia groups for its connections to federal land use policy, which some activists see as government overreach. So-called constitutionalist groups rallied in support of the family, and the Hammonds have indicated they will comply with the order to return to prison.
The occupation of the refuge headquarters came as a surprise to several groups that helped organize the Jan. 2 demonstration in Burns, including 3 Percent of Idaho and other affiliated organizations. In a post on the 3 Percent of Idaho Facebook page, the group detailed its relationship to the demonstration and said the occupation came as a surprise.
"Unbeknownst to the Idaho 3%, Oregon 3%, it’s leaders, associations, rally participants, or the citizens of Harney County; these actions were premeditated and carried out by a small group of persons who chose to carry out this takeover after the rally," the post read. The Idaho group went on to say it does not condone the occupation.