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Here's What You Need To Know About The Bundy Family Behind The Standoff In Oregon

This isn't the first time the family has fought with the federal government.

Posted on January 3, 2016, at 4:43 p.m. ET

The community of Burns, Oregon has become the subject of national attention this weekend after a group of armed militia members took over a federal building near the town as part of a larger protest against the government.

Militants continue occupation of #Oregon refuge as police keep low profile. https://t.co/pDFNowci8M

The takeover was sparked by the impending imprisonment of two local ranchers, Dwight Hammond Jr., and his son Steven.

The duo was sentenced to five years in prison each last year for burning federal land.

The government claimed the torching was arson, but the family argued they were trying to burn off invasive species on their own property and it got out of hand.

They are supposed to report to prison on Monday.

But the occupation is being led by another family entirely: the Bundy family from Nevada. So who are the Bundys, and why are they so involved in the Hammonds' cause?

David Becker / Getty Images

Cliven Bundy is a cattle rancher in southeastern Nevada. His family has owned his land and raised cattle on it since they settled there in the 1800s.

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Bundy and his wife Carol are Mormons, and have 14 children, according to the New York Times.

Bundy has been fighting the federal government for years over a dispute that all started with an endangered tortoise.

In 1993, the Bureau of Land Management [BLM] decided to designate land around Bundy's ranch as protected in order to help the tortoise thrive, the Washington Post reported. This bans ranchers like Bundy from letting their cows graze on the land.

Bundy and others accused the governement of a land grab, and the rancher was defiant. He has been fined more than $1 million since then for letting his cows graze on the land, but refuses to pay the fees.

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Bundy's defiance stems from the fact that he and others refuse to recognize the authority of the federal government to govern public lands, Fox News reported.

Bundy also had his permit to graze revoked in 1993 and has never renewed it, the Washington Post reported.

In the decades since then, Bundy and his family have been activists against what they believe is an overreach of the federal government on public land.

The family is very outspoken about their beliefs online, on a family blog and on social media.

Tensions between Bundy and the BLM finally boiled over in 2014, and the saga made national headlines.

David Becker / Getty Images
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The breaking point came when BLM officials arrived at the ranch with a court order to seize 500 cattle from Bundy over the fine issue, the New York Times reported.

Bundy and his supporters, many of whom were armed, fought back and a standoff ensued.

Conservative media figures rallied behind Bundy, including Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.

George Frey / Getty Images

In the end, the BLM backed off from the fight, Fox News reported.

George Frey / Getty Images

The agency cited safety concerns about the standoff, but said it would continue to pursue the matter against Bundy "aggressively through the legal system."

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But Bundy soon fell out of favor with some of his supporters after he made racist comments about black people at a press conference.

George Frey / Getty Images

According to the New York Times, Bundy said that he thought black people did better when they were slaves.

"They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton," he said. "And I've often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn't get no more freedom. They got less freedom."

His comments were met with condemnation from some who had supported him, including Nevada Sen. Dean Heller who had called his supporters "patriots."

"[Heller] completely disagrees with Mr. Bundy's appalling and racist statements, and condemns them in the most strenuous way," a Heller spokesman told the New York Times at the time.

Since their big media moment, the Bundys have continued to push their agenda. Last year, the family decided to pick up the Hammond cause.

Facebook: bundyranch

The lead spokesman for the movement has been Bundy's adult son Ammon.

In November, Ammon Bundy wrote on Facebook that he had visited Burns, and met with both the Hammonds and local officials to learn about their case.

"The abuses to this family are much greater than I originally explained to you," he wrote. "They have quietly suffered much more than even the Bundys can fully understand."

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Since the fall, the family has been calling on their supporters to contact local officials in support of the Hammonds and have been fighting against their jail sentence.

Facebook: bundyranch

The protest came to head on Saturday, when Ammon Bundy and supporters took over the Malhuer Wildlife Refuge to take a stand against the case.

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The protesters say they are establishing a home base for "patriots" that they plan on occupying for "several years."

"[It will be a] base place for patriots from all over the country to come and to be housed here and to live here," Ammon Bundy said in a video posted online.

As for the Hammond family, they are publicly distancing themselves from the Bundys.

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The family's lawyer told KOIN that the family is not involved with the occupation of the federal building.

"Neither Ammon Bundy nor anyone within his group/organization speak for the Hammond Family," W. Alan Schroeder said in a letter.

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