Bundy militants could be forced to repay $3.4 million to taxpayers over illegal stunt
An Oregon Democrat introduced legislation that would require Ammon Bundy and other out-of-state militants to repay taxpayers for the cost of their armed takeover of a wildlife sanctuary.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer introduced a bill that would require the militants — and the federal government — to pay back costs associated with the occupation, which the lawmaker estimates at $100,000 a day, reported KOIN-TV.
The bill would require the U.S. Department of Justice “to quickly reimburse state and local law enforcement agencies up front for costs associated with responding to the armed takeover.”
The U.S. Attorney General would then be allowed sue the militants to recover those costs.
“It would allow the federal government to go after the armed people who started it,” Blumenauer said. “But in the meantime, the people of Harney County shouldn’t have to suffer twice — had the disruption and then have to pay the bill.”
Blumenauer said the federal government should pay some of the costs to Oregon taxpayers, because he said authorities prolonged the standoff by waiting to arrest or confront the militants.
“The state and local government shouldn’t have to pick up the tab — it’s not their fault,” he said. “The feds need to reimburse and then go after the people who caused it.”
Harney County’s top administrative official previously estimated the occupation cost taxpayers $70,000 a day — and he also wanted the militants to reimburse local taxpayers.
Four militants remained Thursday at Malheur National Wildlife Sanctuary, which Bundy and his comrades took over in early January as part of a scheme to claim ownership of federally owned public land.
A federal grand jury has indicted 16 people in connection with the standoff, and 11 militants have been arrested.
One militant was shot and killed by officers who said he reached twice for a weapon after attempting to flee a traffic stop.
Blumenauer said forcing the militants to reimburse taxpayers would discourage others from attempting similar stunts.
“It must be made clear that armed takeover of government or private facilities, for grievances real or imagined, is absolutely unacceptable and won’t be tolerated,” he said. “It’s not just enough to enforce the law. We should recover damages from lawbreakers who tear up the landscape, degrade wildlife habitat and destroy property.”
Federal authorities have sent additional security personnel to wildlife refuges in southern Oregon, northern California and Nevada to ensure employee and visitor safety.
Officials said no specific threats have been made against the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex, Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge or Modoc National Wildlife Refuge.
But the occupation and ongoing protests in Burns, Oregon, have apparently concerned federal authorities that additional actions might be taken by the militants’ supporters.