How the Oregon and Nevada standoffs are linked

AP News
|
Posted: Feb 18, 2016 4:50 PM
How the Oregon and Nevada standoffs are linked

The armed occupation of an Oregon wildlife refuge ended a week ago, but federal authorities remain active in multiple jurisdictions to ensure people are brought to justice.

The latest developments occurred this week when people involved in the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Oregon, were also charged in a 2014 showdown in Nevada. Both standoffs drew armed, anti-government protesters and involved members of the same family.

Here are some key things to know about the two standoffs:

HOW DID THIS START?

Nevada rancher and melon farmer Cliven Bundy racked up more than $1.1 million fees and penalties dating back to the 1990s for letting cows graze illegally on government land near his ranch outside Las Vegas. In 2014, federal officials began rounding up cattle near his Nevada ranch to carry out court orders in response to the delinquent fees.

As federal Bureau of Land Management agents and contract cowboys herded Bundy cattle up toward a corral in April 2014, a picket line of Bundy supporters took over a freeway 15 bridge, pointing military-style weapons down at them. The government backed off, and the government said it would resolve the matter "administratively and judicially."

___

HOW IS THAT CONNECTED TO THE OREGON STANDOFF?

In many ways, the armed Nevada standoff served as inspiration for this year's occupation in Oregon. Several people took part in both standoffs, and in both situations, participants said they were protesting federal land use rules.

Federal officials are widely viewed as having backed down from Bundy in the armed Nevada standoff, possibly emboldening this year's occupation of the Oregon refuge. In addition, Cliven Bundy's sons, Ammon and Ryan Bundy, helped lead the Oregon protest and face charges for their roles there.

___

HOW DID THE OREGON STANDOFF BEGIN?

On Jan. 2, a protest occurred in Burns, Oregon, amid mounting tension over the case of local ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond.

The Hammonds said they lit fires on federal land in 2001 and 2006 to protect their property from wildfires and invasive plants.

The two were convicted three years ago and served time — the father three months, the son one year. But an appeals court ruled the sentences were too short under federal law, and a federal judge ordered them back to prison for about four years each.

A group of armed protesters broke away from the Burns event and traveled to occupy the refuge. Their demands included having the jailed ranchers freed and the refuge turned over to local control.

___

WHAT IS THE CASE AGAINST CLIVEN BUNDY?

A federal grand jury in Nevada indicted Bundy and four others - including Ammon and Ryan Bundy — on Wednesday on 16 charges related to the Nevada standoff. Ammon Bundy was arrested earlier in the month while traveling in Oregon.

The charges include a litany of allegations stemming from the armed 2014 standoff and the 69-year-old Bundy's defiance of federal rules with his cattle ranching operation, including conspiracy to commit an offense against the U.S. and assault on a federal officer.

The government also claims Bundy is a lousy rancher who has no control over his herd, letting the cattle roam the range with little food or human interaction and no vaccinations against disease. In a court document this week, authorities say Bundy's cattle are so "bereft of human interaction" that the ones which survive are "wild, mean and ornery."

___

WHAT'S HAPPENING AT THE REFUGE NOW?

Federal authorities expect to be on the site for about three weeks gathering evidence. They are combing the refuge and have so far discovered firearms, explosives and trenches dug near an area containing tribal artifacts, according to federal prosecutors.

The occupiers apparently excavated two large trenches and an improvised road "on or adjacent" to grounds containing sensitive artifacts, authorities said. The refuge contains artifacts and burial grounds sacred to the Burns Paiute Tribe.

Investigators found human feces in one of the trenches and spoiled food in the living quarters.