BURNS, Ore. – An armed anti-government standoff at an Oregon wildlife refuge convinced local school officials to delay students’ return from winter break for a week.
“Ensuring staff and student safety is our greatest concern,” Marilyn McBride, superintendent of Harney County School District #3, wrote in an email to The Washington Post.
“Schools will open on January 11,” she told WTVR.
Natural News reports the FBI and other federal officials are currently stockpiling military-style weapons, tactical equipment and long-range observation gear at Burns schools amid a standoff with armed protestors who have occupied an unattended building in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, according to the news site.
The news site and others contend FBI agents are preparing to raid the compound.
Ammon Bundy, son of the famed anti-government Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, took over the building with relatives and supporters in protest of the government’s treatment of area ranchers, particularly Dwight and Steven Hammond.
The father and son ranchers were convicted of arson after prosecutors alleged they burned about 130 acres of public land in 2001 to cover up deer poaching. They were initially sentenced to about a year, but were later resentenced to about 5 years in prison. The men, who said they set the fires to control invasive plants and protect against wildfires, turned themselves in to authorities Monday, the Associated Press reports.
“Neither Ammon Bundy nor anyone within his group/organization speak for the Hammond family,” the Hammonds’ attorney W. Alan Schroeder wrote to Harney County Sheriff David Ward, according to WTVR.
Regardless, Ammon Bundy told CNN his group believes the federal government is retaliating against ranchers who won’t sell their land, and they’re not leaving the 300-acre refuge until there’s a plan in place to turn federal lands over to locals and restore “people’s constitutional rights,” WTVR reports.
“This refuge – it has been destructive to the people of the county and to the people of the area,” he said. “People need to be aware that we’ve become a system where government is actually claiming and using and defending people’s rights, and they are doing that against the people.”
“We will be here as long as it takes,” Bundy said. “We have no intentions of using force upon anyone, (but) if force is used against us, we would defend ourselves.”
Bundy told CNN the group is armed but declined to give specifics on how many are occupying the facility. He contends the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge has consumed 100 ranches in the area since the early 1900s and continues to “expand … at the expense of the ranchers and miners.”
“Now that people such as the Hammonds are taking a stand and not selling their ranches, they are being prosecuted in their own courts as terrorists and putting them in prison for five years,” Bundy said, adding that Harney County has grown progressively poorer during the government takeover.
The Associated Press reports that the federal government “owns 53 percent of Oregon, 85 percent of Nevada and 66 percent of Utah, according to the Congressional Research Service.”
Ammon Bundy is the son of Cliven Bundy, a Nevada rancher who won out in an armed standoff with the Bureau of Land Management over grazing rights in Clark County.
Police officials told the AP they’re “still working on a peaceful resolution” to the Oregon standoff.