This resolution announces Congress' official condemnation of the “unlawful, armed occupation” of a federal wildlife refuge in eastern Oregon. An armed group of men took control of the refuge on January 2, 2016 in protest over the prison sentences for two local ranchers convicted of arson. The resolution calls on the self-proclaimed “militiamen” to surrender.
The occupation, led by Ammon Bundy, was sparked by the October re-sentencing of Dwight and Steve Hammond. The father and son pair — who have fought the government for decades over grazing and water rights on public lands — were convicted of arson on federal land. In 2012, the Hammonds received abbreviated sentences, after arguing that the federal five-year minimum for arson is unconstitutional. In October 2015 — after both men had returned home from prison — an appeals court ordered them to complete the federally required five-year sentences. They returned to prison on January 2, 2016.
Two days later, Ammon Bundy, his brother Ryan, and a group of approximately 20 armed followers seized and occupied the refuge in protest of the Hammonds’ new sentences. They also protest what they see as the federal government’s excessive control over federal lands.
Rep. Raúl Grijalva’s (D-AZ) bill points out that the occupation has:
Prevented twenty refuge employees from reporting to work;
Resulted in the death of one militant;
Prevented employees who live on the refuge from accessing their homes;
Forced local officials to close public schools for security reasons (students did return to school one week after the occupation began).