In Burns, Oregon, a group of men have converged and branded themselves the Citizens for Constitutional Freedom. They have come to Burns from California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Wisconsin, and are expecting more arrivals. Some are affiliated with the Three Percenters, a national group of “ex- and current military, police, and trained civilians” who believe that America is being dismantled and that state rights are being infringed upon. Others are associated with Cliven and Ammon Bundy, who entered the national spotlight following a similar standoff with federal officials stemming from a 2014 dispute pertaining to grazing rights on public land in Nevada. The Bundys are now the de facto leaders of this state of affairs. There are also those who simply feel that the federal government has overstepped its boundaries and that this is their call to action.

Armed, they walked into and seized an unoccupied facility belonging to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, located near Burns, Oregon. They have been regularly rotating a presence of armed men between the site and the Hammond Ranch. Despite the takeover, access to and from the facility is unregulated—allowing freedom of access for curiosity-seekers and like-minded individuals. The ranch is private property, is located adjacent to the wildlife refuge, and is where this situation is rooted.

This discord follows a legal dispute with officials who successfully prosecuted the Hammonds, finding them guilty of initiating fires that destroyed 130 acres of land in 2001 and 2006 to cover up poaching. The Hammonds contend that the fires were controlled burns, which were meant to stop the spread of invasive species encroaching on their property.

Overlooking the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Malheur National Wildlife Refuge facility near Burns, Oregon. SOFREP photo, all rights reserved.