Oregon Militiamen Continue to Dig in, Sparking Fears of Permanent Damage at Seized Wildlife Refuge

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Burning trash to stay warm, because Freedom.Photo: ROB KERR

The armed anti-government militiamen occupying a remote wildlife refuge in Oregon are continuing to make themselves at home, taking down cameras, paving a road, and destroying a wildlife agency fence. The Guardian reports that the far-right group’s increasingly defiant actions are worrying community leaders and government officials, who fear that the occupation is now doing significant permanent damage at the protected wildlife sanctuary. In particular, there is concern that the group is damaging wildlife habitat, culturally significant Native American archaeological sites, as well as related records and artifacts housed in the occupied government buildings. The group had previously announced that they were going through government documents at the site in an attempt to expose discrimination against local ranchers.

According to The Oregonian, the latest bit of militiamen nesting is their removal of government cameras from a nearby transformer station, which they claimed were installed by the FBI to monitor their movements. The militiamen also attempted to shout down anti-occupation conservationists who held a press conference at the refuge on Saturday. One of the militiamen used a bullhorn to yell at members of the Center for Biological Diversity, calling them communists and fascists, and declaring that they were “under arrest for bullshitting.”

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One of the Bundy brothers carrying a newly removed government camera.Photo: ROB KERR

Strangely, though one militiaman was arrested during a grocery run in a stolen federal vehicle on Friday, militia member Robert “LaVoy” Finicum insisted to reporters that they have largely been able drive their own cars to and from the refuge as they please, and without any interactions with local law enforcement.

Finicum has also told OPB that the standoff has resulted in the removal of four foster children from he and his wife’s home in Arizona, though it’s possible the move was simply coincidental to his involvement in the illegal, armed occupation of the refuge. The Catholic charity that the Finicums were working with will apparently not being referring any more children to their care, a move which will reportedly take away the family’s main source of income, as they were financially compensated by the charity for caring for the children. That charity could not be reached for comment by OPB. Another militia member has complained that Child Protective Services also visited his home and removed his children, but that claim could not be independently verified. 

After cancelling a proposed meeting on Friday to discuss their exit strategy, the group has said that meeting will now supposedly happen on Monday. Previously, the group had announced their intention to remain at the refuge for years.