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article imageAnti-government group wants ownership of seized parklands

By Nathan Salant     Jan 7, 2016 in Environment
Burns - Anti-government protesters pledged to stay on remote federal land they seized Saturday night in Oregon until U.S. officials agree to release ownership to them.
Ammon Bundy of the group Citizens for Constitutional Freedom, many of whose members are occupying the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, said Tuesday that they would give up possession of the 300-square-mile reserve when U.S. officials agree to turn ownership of the property over to local residents.
"It is our goal to get the logger back to logging, the rancher back to ranching," said Bundy, son of a Nevada rancher involved in a well-publicized standoff with the government over grazing rights.in 2014.
Members of Bundy's group wore camouflage and cowboy hats and carried rifles Saturday when they entered buildings near the refuge headquarters and refused to leave despite threats of power shutoffs and arrests.
Authorities in Harney County said they had no word on arrest warrants or on using force and were "still working on a peaceful resolution," according to the Associated Press.
The takeover apparently started as a protest against the return to prison of Dwight Hammond and his son, Steven, who were ordered back to custody to serve minimum sentences for lighting fires on federal land in 2001 and 2006, the AP said.
The Hammonds turned themselves in on Monday and said they were not in support of the protesters, who turned out in large numbers to protest the arrests.
Arizona rancher LaVoy Finicum, a member of the group, pledged to remain at the entrance to the refuge to facilitate negotiations with Bundy, even as other group members said they were staking out "defensive positions" to guard against a raid.
Finicum said his group would trace back land acquisitions since the 1800s to review the history of federal acquisition of property in Oregon.
The U.S. government owns around half of all property in western states, including 53 percent of Oregon, 85 percent of Nevada and 66 percent of Utah, the AP said, and a state takeover of public lands in Idaho alone would cost $111 million per year.
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