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'Militiamen' Who Occupy Oregon Refuge Have Few Supporters: Conservation Groups Demand End to Refuge Occupation

By TERRENCE PETTY
With the armed takeover of a national wildlife refuge in southeastern Oregon in its third week, Ammon Bundy and his group are still trying to muster up broad community support — so far without much luck.

Bundy has drawn a lot of attention to the dissatisfaction of ranchers and local townsfolk with federal land-use policies in the West. But the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge has also begun to result in pushback from others who use public lands — birders, hunters and hikers, among others.

Here are some things to know about how conservation groups are trying to rally public pressure on Bundy to leave, and what Bundy is doing to try to win more sympathizers.

GROWING PUSHBACK AGAINST THE OCCUPATION

On Tuesday night in Burns, Bundy attended a tense community meeting and listened as residents chanted at him to "go."

He didn't speak at the meeting that was held for residents to talk about the occupation.

Some of the several hundred community members spoke to Bundy directly. One thanked him for raising awareness around issues of public lands, but told him it's time to go home to his family.

Many others were less congenial and voiced anger at Bundy's group as well as the local and federal government for what some said was a lack of effort to end the takeover.

Bundy and his small posse left after the meeting without incident.

Earlier in the day, several hundred people rallied in Portland — about 300 miles north of the remote refuge in southeastern Oregon — to demand Bundy end the occupation and to point out that federal management makes it possible for all kinds of people to enjoy public lands.

Protesters chanted "Birds, Not Bullies," a reference to the Malheur refuge's creation in 1908 as a preserve and breeding ground for native birds. The rally was organized by Oregon Wild, Portland Audubon and the Center for Biological Diversity.

"This occupation represents a threat to public lands," said Bob Sallinger with the Audubon Society. "These are not political statements. These are crimes."

In Boise, more than 100 people attended a similar protest Tuesday in front of the Idaho Capitol. Ann Finley, a member of the Great Old Broads for Wilderness, said that the refuge is a special place.

"I love our free lands, and we're out here today stepping out and saying those lands should remain public," Finley said.

Conservation groups have also shown up at the refuge itself to demand that Bundy and his followers leave, and last weekend got into a shouting match with Bundy's group.

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