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Ore. state legislator meets with armed group at wildlife refuge

As the occupation of a national wildlife area by a small, armed group upset over federal land policies stretched into its second week, the group stayed quiet on Sunday.

Credit: ROB KERR
Ammon Bundy arrives to speak to the media at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Oregon January 4, 2016. Pictured left is Brian Cavalier. ROB KERR/AFP/Getty Images

BURNS, Ore. -- An Oregon state legislator has met with the armed group occupying a national wildlife area in Oregon, to protest federal land policies.

According to The Oregonian, Rep. Dallas Heard, a Republican from Roseburg, talked with the group at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon's high desert country. Heard's legislative district is in western Oregon, outside the area where the standoff is occurring.

Complete coverage: Armed occupation at Oregon refuge

Rep. Cliff Bentz, the Republican state representative whose district includes the wildlife refuge, says he told Heard not to come because it would be "inappropriate." Harney County Judge Steven Grasty, another local official, says he too advised Bentz against the visit. Grasty says Bentz and five other out-of-state elected officials from Washington, Idaho and Nevada accompanied Heard.

It wasn't clear who the other elected officials were. Heard did not return a call Sunday from The Associated Press.

One of the members of the group at the refuge, Arizona rancher LaVoy Finicum, told reporters Sunday morning that the meeting with lawmakers occurred but wouldn't identify any of the participants.

Also on Sunday, the mother of the group's leader spread the word that supporters should send supplies - requesting everything from sleeping bags, wool socks, cigarettes, toiletries, food, coffee and "French Vanilla Creamer."

Burns protest: How did we get here?

The leader of the occupation, Ammon Bundy, has repeatedly rejected calls to leave buildings at the refuge. He has said the group will leave when there is a plan to transfer control of federal land to locals.

On Saturday, a “security detail” of armed men wearing military attire showed up to support Ammon Bundy and his group’s occupation of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge only to be told to leave, according to The Oregonian.

The armed men represented the Pacific Patriot Network, a consortium of groups from Oregon, Washington and Idaho, the newspaper reported.

The leader of the group told The Oregonian they came to the refuge to “de-escalate” the situation by providing security at the federal building, but Bundy didn't want the group there and asked them to leave.

The group left early Saturday afternoon.

The arrival of the Pacific Patriot Network came a day after a “patriot” group called The 3% of Idaho sent support to the occupation in Harney County to prevent a “Waco-style situation from unfolding.”

On Thursday, Harney County Sheriff David Ward met with protesters for the first time since the occupation began on Jan. 2.

Ward offered Bundy a safe escort out of the county but Bundy declined. Ward said no other meetings were planned.

Protesters decline to leave

Bundy's group, which calls itself the Citizens for Constitutional Freedom, said it will leave when the imprisoned ranchers, Dwight and Steven Hammond, are freed and the federally owned land in Harney County is relinquished to local ranchers.

More coverage of the occupation:

Small-town residents to armed protesters: ‘Go away’

Burns tribe says armed activists ‘desecrating’ land

Armed group has now blocked road to refuge

Inside the Hammonds’ arson case

Oregon standoff: Like father, like son