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Security Beefed up at National Wildlife Refuges in 3 States

  • Associated Press

A memorial for Robert “LaVoy” Finicum is seen where he was shot and killed by law enforcement on a highway north of Burns, Ore., Jan. 30, 2016. Four occupiers remain holed up at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge south of Burns, saying they will not leave without assurances they won't be arrested.

A memorial for Robert “LaVoy” Finicum is seen where he was shot and killed by law enforcement on a highway north of Burns, Ore., Jan. 30, 2016. Four occupiers remain holed up at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge south of Burns, saying they will not leave without assurances they won't be arrested.

Additional security officers have been sent to national wildlife refuges in southern Oregon, northern California and Nevada amid the ongoing armed occupation of a sister refuge in southeastern Oregon that has caused tensions in the region and is showing no sign of ending soon.

Four occupiers remain holed up at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge south of Burns, saying they will not leave without assurances they won't be arrested.

As the occupation drags on, additional officers have been sent to the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex that straddles the Oregon-California border, as well as to the Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge in Nevada and Modoc National Wildlife Refuge in northern California.

"No specific threats or incidents have occurred, but we remain vigilant to ensure employee and visitor safety throughout the Region," Jody Holzworth, a Sacramento-based regional spokeswoman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said in an email Wednesday.

Meanwhile, a federal grand jury has indicted 11 people arrested last week for their roles in the occupation of the Malheur refuge including their leader, Ammon Bundy.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Geoff Barrow said Wednesday others besides the 11 were also indicted, perhaps a reference to the last four holdouts at the Malheur refuge.

Federal criminal complaints against the 11 accuse each of a conspiracy charge of using intimidation to prevent federal officers from doing their work at the refuge in a sparsely populated region of Oregon.

The occupation began Jan. 2, with Bundy demanding the federal government turn public lands over to local control.

Four holdouts remain at the refuge, ignoring Bundy's advice that they leave to avoid bloodshed. They are David Fry, 27, of Blanchester, Ohio; Jeff Banta, 46, of Elko, Nevada; and Sean Anderson, 48, and Sandy Anderson, 47, a married couple from Riggins, Idaho.

Tensions have continued in Harney County, where the Malheur refuge is located.

Earlier this week, local residents who want the occupation to end squared off in Burns against militia members and others who held a demonstration to support the occupation and to protest the death of Robert "LeVoy" Finicum, who had been acting as spokesman for Bundy's group.

Finicum died during a Jan. 26 confrontation with FBI agents and Oregon state troopers on a remote road. The FBI says Finicum was going for a gun in his jacket pocket, but Bundy supporters say his death was not justified. That confrontation last week also resulted in the arrest of Bundy and others.

Federal authorities are showing worry that tensions could pop up elsewhere.

Gavin Shire, chief of public affairs for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said national wildlife refuges across the nation and other sites run by the agency are exercising extra vigilance.

"Due to the evolving situation in eastern Oregon, all service stations are on alert and being advised to take appropriate caution," Shire said in a statement.

The Malheur refuge has 17 employees, and they haven't able to work there because of the occupation.

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