Armed protesters have taken over a building in a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon, accusing officials of unfairly punishing ranchers who refused to sell their land.
Dwight and Steven Hammond, who have been charged with arson, said they lit the fires in 2001 and 2006 to reduce the growth of invasive plants and protect their property from wildfires.
They both served jail time three years ago for the offense, but a judge has ruled under federal law, enough time wasn’t served and has ordered them to return to jail for four years.
Ammon Bundy, son of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy who was involved in a standoff with the government over grazing rights, and his two brothers are the primary organizers of the occupation of the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
“”I feel we are in a situation where if we do not do something, if we do not take a hard stand, we’ll be in a position where we’ll be no longer able to do so,” said Bundy.
The protesters have told the media that they plan on staying at the Wildlife Refuge indefinitely or until they feel as though their needs are met.
Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward told people to stay away from the building as authorities work to defuse the situation, the Oregonian reported.
“”A collective effort from multiple agencies is currently working on a solution. For the time being please stay away from that area. More information will be provided as it becomes available. Please maintain a peaceful and united front and allow us to work through this situation,” Ward said in a statement.”
Dwight and Steven plan to peacefully return to jail on January 4th, 2016 as ordered by the judge.