Published: Tue, January 26, 2016
U.S. | By Eddie Scott

FBI Defends 'Measured' Response to Oregon Wildlife Refuge Occupation

The FBI agent, who identified himself on the phone only as "Chris", listened to Bundy's well-practiced litany of complaints against the federal government and probed for what it would take to end his occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

Bundy and the FBI made contact one day after Oregon Gov. Kate Brown expressed frustration with what she described as a lack of action by federal authorities against the group.

Bundy, who had previously met with local ranchers urging them to tear up their federal contracts, also said he wasn't disappointed that Sewell was the only one to take him up on his idea.

The exchange happened outside a Federal Bureau of Investigation staging area near Burns, Oregon. Those ranchers have since reported to prison and did not align themselves with the Bundy brothers. The negotiator told Bundy that he wanted to "keep the dialogue going", according to OPB. "We want to work together with you", the negotiator told Bundy. Furious community members took to the microphone to ask Bundy to leave the refuge and at one point the crowd chanted "Go, go, go..." according to media reports. They agreed to speak again Friday. But the sheriff said Bundy wouldn't take him up on the offer.

The statement noted that the agency was working with local authorities.

Federal, state and local law enforcement officers have been sent to the area but so far have avoided doing anything that might provoke a confrontation.

The FBI would not comment on any plans for future negotiations with the occupiers, but said in a statement that its response has been "deliberate and measured". The federal grazing policy has changed for Western ranchers in recent decades, fueling fears that a way of life that has sustained generations could disappear.

Since Jan. 2, armed men have been occupying federal buildings at the rural eastern OR refuge with the stated hope of freeing a father and son convicted of arson and sentenced under controversial federal mandatory minimum sentencing laws.

This signing ceremony "will double the amount of ranchers" standing up for their rights, he said. The armed group plans to open up the 300-square-mile refuge for cattle this spring.

Ammon Bundy sits at a desk he's using at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in OR on Friday, Jan. 22, 2016. With the armed takeover of the national wildlife refuge in southeastern OR in its third week, Bundy and his armed group are still trying to muster up broad community support, so far without much luck.

Last Sunday, OSP cited Darrow Burke, of Ukiah, Calif., for having no operator's license, after his van rolled over on an icy road off U.S. Highway 20.

Kieran Suckling with the Center for Biological Diversity said the leaders of the armed group want to "stage another occupancy like this and to terrorize those towns the same way they have terrorized Burns". He said ranchers are "afraid of prosecution" if they help now.

Ammon Bundy sits at a desk he's using at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in OR on Friday, Jan. 22, 2016. The newly established "Lake Malheur Reservation" was the 19th of 51 wildlife refuges created by Roosevelt during his tenure as president.

Associated Press reporter Gosia Wozniacka contributed from Portland, Oregon.

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