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Ryan Bundy Defends Seizure, Denies Terrorism Claims

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AP Photo/Rebecca Boone

Ryan Bundy talks on the phone at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Ore., Sunday, Jan. 3, 2016. Bundy is one of the protesters occupying the refuge to object to a prison sentence for local ranchers for burning federal land.

Nevada’s Bundys are in the news again, this time in a remote stretch of land in Oregon.

Ryan Bundy, the 43-year-old father of eight, has joined his brother, Ammon, and others who took over a remote wildlife refuge in Harney County. The county borders northern Nevada.

The FBI says it's working with local and state authorities to "bring a peaceful resolution to the situation."

The sheriff of that county has warned people to stay away. The Bundys are armed but have said their protest is peaceful. They have also said they are determined to stay in the refuge for as long as it takes.

The question is, as long as it takes to do what?

"We are here because of the long train of abuses that the federal government has been placing upon the people here," Bundy told KNPR's State of Nevada, "We realized that they are abusing the rights, and the land and rights of the people all around, but it's very extreme up here."

Bundy told the Associated Press he hopes to turn over the land to local authorities so people can use it free from federal oversight. He said he hopes the takeover will prompt others to take action across the country to seize control of federally managed land.

Bundy also said they are there to support the family of rancher Dwight Hammond. He and his son, Steve, were ordered to prison Monday to serve time for arson.

Support comes from

Bundy said the fire the Hammonds have been convicted of setting is a common way for ranchers to clear away brush. 

"The definition of arson must include malice," he said, "For a fire to be considered arson it must have malicious intent and not only that, it must be a structure, primarily a dwelling."

According to the Oregon Revised Statute, arson is "recklessly" starting a fire that damages the protected property of another person.

The fires the Hammonds started spread onto land managed by the BLM, according to NPR. The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, which was passed in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing, increased penalties for arson committed against federal property.

Bundy believes the convictions and sentences are the latest efforts to push the Hammonds off land the government wants to control.  

"The federal government has really, really put pressure on them," Bundy said "This wildlife refuge here has been an instrument of tyranny. By running people off the land to create this place."

According to Bundy, the federal government took control of more than 100 ranches over many years to create the refuge. Bundy accused the government of using "manipulative forces,"  including "burning them out" and "flooding them out."

Bundy said the government is trying to paint the Hammonds as terrorists to get them to give up the land for the wildlife refuge.

According to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge website, the refuge was created in 1908 by President Theodor Roosevelt. The site explains the refuge takes in about 187,000 acres of land in the Northern Great Basin, with 65,000 acres added in 1935 and 14,000 acres added in 1942. It is an important refuge for migratory birds. 

 

Bundy brushed off accusations that his group are terrorists, which has been suggested by several people in social media and in opinion pages

He said the real terrorists are the federal government.

"They literally have these people living in fear up here," he said, "They are using fear tactics that if they don't do exactly as they say then their livelihoods, their very means of survival, will be taken from them." 

Bundy said for the Hammonds it goes beyond fear of losing their ranch. He said they are afraid of losing their lives.

"Dwight Hammond, expressed to me several times, that he was afraid to do anything because they would put a bullet in his head and he said 'they'll throw my body in the back of a pickup and I won't be the only one," Bundy quoted. 

Bundy said they have a plan to restore the rights of the people in the area. 

From NPR: Of Ranchers And Rancor: The Roots Of The Armed Occupation In Oregon 

The standoff is the latest chapter in a long-running dispute between some Westerners and the federal government over the use of public lands.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)

KNPR's State of Nevada
Apr 16, 2014

Behind The Bundy Ranch Standoff

Guests

Ryan Bundy, son of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy

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