(BURNS, Ore.) — The FBI is taking the lead in monitoring the situation in Oregon where a group of militia members, along with some members of the family of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, are occupying a building on federal land at a national wildlife refuge.
A statement from the FBI says they are “working with the Harney County Sheriff’s Office, Oregon State Police and other local and state law enforcement agencies to bring a peaceful resolution to the situation.”
A number of militamen have seized the refuge’s headquarters in protest of arson convictions against a pair of local ranchers.
Among the protesters who took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters is Ammon Bundy, the son of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy. The elder Bundy is known for his 2014 armed standoff with the federal government at his Nevada ranch.
The refuge is federal property managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and was closed for the holiday weekend.
A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokesperson told ABC News: “The Fish and Wildlife Service and The Bureau of Land Management have received reports that an unknown number of individuals have broken into the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge facility near Burns, Oregon. While the situation is ongoing, the main concern is employee safety and we can confirm that no federal staff were in the building at the time of the initial incident. We will continue to monitor the situation for additional developments.”
Harney County School District No. 3 schools will be closed this week, Superintendent Dr. Marilyn L. McBride told ABC News.
“Ensuring staff and student safety is our greatest concern,” McBride said.
Beth Anne Steele, a spokeswoman for the FBI in Portland, told ABC News the FBI is aware of the situation but is not making any further comments.
Ammon Bundy held a press conference on Sunday, one day after the protesters began occupying the building, saying that the federal government does not have the right to own or control land. The protesters, Bundy says, want the state to have jurisdiction.
The protests stemmed from the arson convition of a pair of ranchers, a father and son, who were convicted of burning federal land.
Bundy claims that it is the duty of the American people to put government in its place, and that his group does not have any intention of harming or endangering anybody.
The protesters say their intent is to assist the people of Harney County, Oregon in reclaiming their rights.
Harney County Sheriff David Ward said that while the militamen claim to be supporting local ranchers, “in reality these men had alternative motives to attempt to over throw the county and federal government in hopes to spark a movement across the United States.” Ward said that his office was working with “several organizations” to ensure the safety of Harney County residents.
Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden also spoke to reporters on the situation Sunday, saying that the FBI is keeping an eye on the situation, urging citizens “not to walk off a cliff, misled by some outsiders who seem willing to take the law into their own hands.”
The U.S. Fisheries and Wildlife Service posted a message to Twitter about the situation Sunday, saying that they were working to resolve the situation peacefully.
Thanks for your concern re the situation at Malheur NWR. All FWS staff are safe & accounted for. We are working to resolve this peacefully.
— US Fish and Wildlife (@USFWS) January 3, 2016
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