BURNS, Ore. (CN) - Ammon Bundy and his followers showed no signs of leaving the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge on Monday, as their armed occupation of the federal facility stretched into its eighth day.
Bundy and an estimated two dozen followers took over unoccupied federal offices at the refuge after splitting off from a peaceful protest on Jan. 3 over the jailing of local ranchers Dwight Hammond and his son Steven for setting fires on their property.
Heavily armed supporters arrived on Saturday morning, carrying rifles and wearing bulletproof vests. The group - who said they were members of the Pacific Patriots Network - stayed for several hours before leaving, after Bundy reportedly told them, "We don't need you."
At a community meeting on Jan. 6, an overwhelming majority of the estimated 400 Harney County residents in attendance told Sheriff David Ward they wanted him to send a similar message to Bundy.
The next day, Ward did just that - and Bundy rejected Ward's bid to escort him and his followers peacefully to the state line.
Ward met with Ammon Bundy on Thursday evening, at a remote intersection near the refuge.
It was a scene that could have come straight from a spaghetti western. Dry, frigid air hung over the snowy valley as the two men approached each other.
"I think that there are some positives that could come out of this," Ward told Bundy. "And I think that the people of the county are excited about working out issues that come from the government overreaching. But before this thing turns into something negative, which would ruin all of that, I think we need to find a peaceful resolution to help you guys get out of here."
The two men shook hands and Bundy walked to his Hummer. He opened the passenger door, then turned back to Ward.
"I'm not afraid to go out of the state," Bundy said. "I don't need an escort."
Ward told reporters he wanted to give Bundy a serious chance to leave peacefully. But he said he didn't think that's what Bundy wanted.
"I don't feel like they think they're getting enough attention yet," Ward said.
Later, Bundy told reporters he wouldn't leave until the federal government complied with one of his original demands: to hand the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge over to either the county or to private owners.
From the beginning, Bundy has denied the federal government's right to own any land at all. He says the refuge should be in the hands of locals who can better manage the land than the federal government.
"It is our goal to get the logger back to logging, the miner back to mining and the rancher back to ranching," Bundy told reporters.
In an interview, Bundy told Courthouse News that his plan is in motion.
"It is already happening," Bundy said. "It's not 'take over the refuge,' it's the community beginning to take over their rights again and transfers of land starting to happen. It's getting people back to using the land like their forefathers did. Like they've been doing for over a hundred years."