Utah attorneys travel to Oregon with aim to de-escalate standoff

Posted at 6:07 PM, Jan 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-09 23:50:43-05

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah - The armed standoff at the Malheur National Wildlife refuge is now in it’s seventh day. It’s a holdout that includes people from all over the country, including Utah.

Among them are a group of Utah attorneys, looking to help defuse a situation that has only seemed to escalate.

“We spent basically a half-day meeting with the players involved,” said Utah attorney Todd MacFarlane. “Their biggest concern was what they felt like was the distortions and mis-characterization of what was going on up there.”

The occupation of the wildlife refuge started last week when a small group broke into the refuge headquarters and said they weren’t going to leave until the federal government agreed to give up control of the land.

The situation centers on the conviction of the Hammond family, who are serving sentences for starting a wildfire. Ammon Bundy has become a main leader in the standoff. The Bundy family have become advocates for public land rights.

In a video posted to Facebook by Third Watch Productions, Bundy said they’re gaining support, both locally and regionally.

Southern Utah rancher John Pratt joined the group this weekend.

“We drove the 10 or 12 hours that it takes to get here and we were welcomed in,” Pratt said.

MacFarlane says the big message out of Oregon is that it’s not an armed standoff with the feds, but more of an occupation of federal lands.

“That’s not what I observed,” said MacFarlane. "I didn’t observe any standoff, there’s a very open atmosphere out there at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge.”

Macfarlane said his talks with the Bundys did include an exit strategy. He said this is really just one specific incident of public lands occupation that the Bundys have gotten involved in.