White House: No Federal Employees in Danger in Militia Standoff

Ammon Bundy, center, one of the sons of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, walks off after speaking with reporters during a news conference at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters Monday. Ammon Bundy, center, one of the sons of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, walks off after speaking with reporters during a news conference at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters Monday. Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

No federal workers are at risk at a federal facility in Oregon where armed individuals, led by rancher Ammon Bundy, have taken control of the building, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said on Monday, noting his information was “to our knowledge.”

Earnest told reporters the standoff at the Fish and Wildlife Service's Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, near Burns, Ore., is a “local law enforcement matter,” but added the FBI was providing assistance. Otherwise, he said, the federal government is only involved to ensure the safety of its workforce.  


The head of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association indicated in a statement that the feds should be more involved. 

“The illegal takeover of any federal property is a criminal act and all those involved should be arrested and federally prosecuted," FLEOA National President Nathan Catura said. 

“The concern that we have is for the safety of federal personnel that work in those facilities,” Earnest said. “To our knowledge, at this point, there are no federal employees that are at risk or in danger right now.”

The wildlife refuge remained closed Monday, according to FWS, and will continue to be “until further notice.” President Theodore Roosevelt established the refuge in 1908 as the Lake Malheur Reservation; it now encompasses 187,757 acres of wildlife habitat, according to the FWS. 

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is aware that an unknown number of armed individuals have broken into and occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge facility near Burns, Ore.,” according to a statement from the agency. “While the situation is ongoing, the main concern is employee safety, and we can confirm that no federal staff were in the building at the time of the initial incident.”

FWS said it would continue to monitor the situation for “additional developments.” The militia said it would stay at the facility for “at long as it takes.” 

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