An armed group of extremists occupying a wildlife refuge in Oregon is making “irrational demands,” authorities and locals said Sunday.
A right-wing militia led by firebrand Ammon Bundy seized control of the Malheur wildlife reserve in Harney County in early January. The militia has demanded unfettered grazing rights on federal land, including the wildlife reserve. While many local ranchers initially welcomed the militia bringing national attention to grazing issues, the militia has become increasingly unpopular among Harney residents.
The Oregon Cattlemen's Association said the militia's demands are too unrealistic to even consider.
“We won't speculate on the potential ramifications of an unfeasible proposal,” Kayli Hanley, the association's communications director told The Oregonian.
Another of the militia's demands has been the revival of Harney's timber industry, which fell into decline in the 1980s. However, local officials say the demand overlooks the fact there's nothing left of the timber industry to salvage.
“All the sawmill equipment was taken out years ago,” local business development coordinator Randy Fulton said.
“There's nothing out there where we can re-oil machinery, turn on the lights and start operations,” Fulton told The Oregonian.
While the militia has maintained they won't leave the wildlife reserve until their demands are met, residents in Harney say they want the armed demonstrators gone.
“It’s time for them to go,” rancher Joseph Fine told The Wall Street Journal. Many locals have argued some of Bundy's far right-wing supporters could pose a problem for the Harney community.
“The major concern is the damn screwballs following Bundy around,” Fine said.
The militia has also infuriated the indigenous Paiute people, after footage was posted online Wednesday showing the militia rummaging through historic artifacts stored at the wildlife refuge.
Paiute spokesperson Jarvis Kennedy told The Guardian, “I could go to the Bundy's where his grandparents are buried … How would they feel if I drove over their grave and went through their heirlooms?”
“I feel disrespected that they’re even out there,” Kennedy said.