The FBI is leading efforts to resolve a standoff at a national wildlife refuge, where an armed militia-style group vows to occupy federal buildings in Eastern Oregon "indefinitely."
The anti-government activists set up a camp Saturday to fight back against a new prison sentence for two local ranchers who set fires on federal land in 2001. They also want land from the refuge returned to local owners.
Ammon Bundy, who is leading the occupation, says the protests are the result of months of calls to the government that went ignored. His father, Cliven Bundy, was involved in a 2014 standoff with the government over grazing rights in Nevada.
"The wildlife refuge has been a tool that government has used for many years to take the land and resources away from the people," Bundy said. "The people of this county are being abused and they're being prosecuted because they're not willing to sell to the federal government, and it's just one of those things that just cannot continue."
The group has occupied three to five federal buildings in protest of the government's expansion of the over 100-year-old federal wildlife refuge.
While the group is armed, Bundy said he did not anticipate the situation to escalate to violence. He also denied they were a militia group, identifying instead as "concerned American citizens that are willing to stand for their rights."
"We need to defend ourselves. There's an imminent threat towards us and it is our right to do that," Bundy said. "We are serious about being here and we are serious about defending our rights, about getting some things straightened out but we have no intention of using any type of force, intimidation."
Bundy said the group has yet to negotiate with the government and is planning to stay as long as it takes for their demands to be met.
"They tried for actually over a year to try to get some justice in the situation and there was none offered," Bundy said. "In fact they ignored and so now the people are checking and balancing their government as... we have the right to do."