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News from the federal lands takeover front

Arizona rancher LaVoy Finicum holds a rifle as he guards the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge on Tuesday near Burns, Ore.
Arizona rancher LaVoy Finicum holds a rifle as he guards the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge on Tuesday near Burns, Ore.

PUBLIC LANDS -- Here are a few end of the week news stories dealing with the drumbeat to transfer federal lands to state, local or private jurisdictions.

Donald Trump talks guns, hunting, conservation with Field & Stream

The Republican presidential candidate talks to a sportsman's magazine editor about guns, the Second Amendment and keeping federal lands in federal hands.
--Field & Stream

Bundys to host ceremonial grazing lease tear-up at Oregon refuge Saturday

Ammon and Ryan Bundy, who have lead the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon plan a ceremony for ranchers to tear up their federal grazing lease permits. The brothers said they intend to open the 300-square-mile refuge to grazing this spring.

Idaho congressman's alignment with Oregon occupiers disturbing

Voters need to hold Idaho U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador accountable for his ill-advised support of the lawbreakers now occupying the Oregon wildlife refuge, and his characterization of the actions of the scofflaws as "civil disobedience" is just plain wrong says Boise resident Kevin Lewis in a guest column.
-- Idaho Statesman

Militants harass fed employees near Malheur occupation

As scandalous as it is that federal employees have been kept from their workplaces because armed intruders have taken over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, now those staffers are being warned they might be victimized by “paper terrorism.”

An email sent to agency leaders Friday warned that self-appointed judges associated with the right-wing sovereign citizen movement might “try to issue indictments, serve papers, or arrest local officials and/or federal employees.” Those papers would have no legal authority, but would serve to bully workers.

-- Washington Post

Armed group's leader won't talk to FBI without media present

BURNS, Ore. (AP) – The leader of an armed group occupying a national wildlife refuge in Oregon met briefly with a federal agent Friday, but left because the agent wouldn’t talk with him in front of the media.

The short meeting occurred as the standoff over federal land use policies stretches to the three-week mark and as Oregon officials are putting increased pressure on federal authorities to take action against Ammon Bundy’s group.

Bundy arrived at the airport in Burns late Friday morning, where the FBI has set up a staging area. On Thursday, Bundy went to the airport and spoke to an FBI negotiator over the phone. They agreed to speak again Friday, but Bundy left shortly after he arrived because the FBI agent he spoke with said federal authorities wanted any conversation to be private.

Bundy wants face-to-face conversations in front of reporters.

“I really don’t think, at this point, even having another phone conversation here without him would be beneficial,” Bundy said before leaving.

He also questioned the FBI’s authority.

“If you haven’t got sanction from the sheriff, there’s no reason to be talking to you,” Bundy said.

A crowd of reporters watched the brief exchange, while state troopers and armed federal agents looked on.

Bundy’s group began occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon on Jan. 2.

The FBI did not immediately comment on Friday’s meeting with Bundy, but said in a statement Thursday their “response has been deliberate and measured as we seek a peaceful resolution.”

On Wednesday, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said she was angry because federal authorities have not taken action against Bundy’s group, which began occupying the refuge Jan 2. The Democratic governor said the occupation has cost Oregon taxpayers nearly half a million dollars.

Brown sent a letter Thursday to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch and FBI Director James Comey, urging them “to end the unlawful occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge as safely and as quickly as possible.”

In a statement Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley said it was “long past time for this illegal occupation to end and for the people of Harney County to get their lives back.”

The Democrat said he hope authorities could peacefully resolve the situation and hold Bundy’s group accountable.

At community meetings, some local residents have asked Bundy and his group to leave. However Bundy has said he believes his group’s work is appreciated by locals. He said the armed men have been “helping ranchers,” doing maintenance on the refuge because “it’s in a bad shape,” and taking care of fire hazards in the refuge’s fire house.

Bundy has also asked the FBI to let two ranchers sent to prison for arson go back home.

Earlier Bundy also said his group plans to have a ceremony Saturday for ranchers to renounce federal ownership of public land and tear up their federal grazing contracts. The armed group plans to open up the 300-square-mile refuge for cattle this spring.

Rich Landers
Rich Landers joined The Spokesman-Review in 1977. He is the Outdoors editor for the Sports Department writing and photographing stories about hiking, hunting, fishing, boating, conservation, nature and wildlife and related topics.

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