The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is condemning the removal of fences bordering the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by militants occupying the public property.
In a video released late Sunday, Ammon Bundy claimed his group would visit nearby ranchers Monday.
“We’re planning on going down to the ranch adjacent here to the Malheur Refuge where they’ve cut off the largest portion of their range,” Bundy said in the video address. “We’re going to go take that fence down and get those ranchers back to ranching on their range.”
SHARE BREAKING! UPDATE FROM BURNS OREGON AMMON BUNDY! BLM CORRUPTION GOES DEEP! SIGN https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/commute-sentences-dwight-lincoln-hammond-jr-and-steven-dwight-hammond-both-harney-county-oregon Eric Ej Parker Brooke Agresta Brandon CurtissPosted by Blaine Cooper on Sunday, January 10, 2016
Members of Bundy's group were seen using heavy equipment owned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to pull up fence posts Monday.
In a statement shortly after, USFWS said that removing fences and damaging property on the refuge would fall in the category of “additional unlawful actions” by those who've occupied the refuge since Jan. 2.
“Any movement of cattle onto the Refuge or other activities that are not specifically authorized by USFWS constitutes trespassing,” said Jason Holm, the assistant regional director for external affairs at USFWS.
“If they take down the fences, it hurts the Refuge, but it also destroys the positive conservation impacts reaped from decades of direct collaboration and sweat equity paid by the Harney County (and surrounding) communities, ranchers, landowners, partners and friends,” Holm wrote.
Many in the community say they want the militants occupying the refuge to leave. But many also say they support the ideas and sentiments of the armed protesters.
Bundy has said in the past week that his group does plan to eventually leave, but first want the refuge returned to local control and two local ranchers released from prison.
Dwight and Steven Hammond are the two Harney County ranchers who reported to federal prison last week after being convicted of arson on grazing land.