BURNS, Ore. Law enforcement officials on Friday were sweeping a wildlife refuge in Oregon for possible live explosives and evidence, a day after the last holdouts in a protest over federal control of Western land surrendered, ending a six-week armed standoff.
Federal authorities said the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon would remain closed for several weeks, as agents secured what was now considered a crime scene and scoured it for fugitives or explosives.
After their surrender on Thursday, protesters told authorities they left behind booby traps but did not say whether the trip wires and other devices would trigger explosions, a law enforcement official told Reuters.
Materials to create explosives could be found on the refuge, the official said, because workers there previously performed controlled burns of the land.
The nearby town of Burns, which has been caught in the middle as the wildlife refuge occupiers protested the federal government's control of expanses of Western land, was quiet on Friday as residents sought to resume normal life after the 41-day standoff.
The final four occupiers of the refuge surrendered on Thursday, with the last protester repeatedly threatening suicide in a dramatic final phone call with mediators before he gave up.
David Fry, 27, stayed behind for more than an hour and told supporters by phone he had not agreed with the other three to leave the refuge, in a call broadcast live on an Internet audio feed.
The final four occupiers will face charges of conspiracy to impede federal officers, along with the 12 previously arrested, officials said.
"The occupation of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge has been a long and traumatic episode for the citizens of Harney County and the members of the Burns Paiute tribe," U.S. Attorney Billy Williams said in a statement.
The takeover, which began on Jan. 2, was sparked by the return to prison of two Oregon ranchers convicted of setting fires that spread to federal property near the refuge.
Susan Hammond, the wife and mother of the two men, told Reuters in an exclusive interview on Thursday that she hopes the peaceful outcome will spur further activism to curb the reach of the federal government.
"I don’t think it’s over. I think it’s just beginning,” she said in a telephone interview. “We have hopes that possibly this will be the beginning of a change in the overreach of federal government, but it’s only the beginning.”
(Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere in Los Angeles; Editing by Clarence Fernandez, Sara Catania and Phil Berlowitz)
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