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Oregon Occupiers Apparently Dug Trenches Near Artifact Sites, Feds Say

The federal government said the trenches and a campground were on or next to sensitive cultural sites. The refuge contains Native American artifacts.

Investigators gathering evidence at the site of an Oregon wildlife refuge that was occupied by armed protesters have found firearms, explosives and trenches dug in land that could contain Native American artifacts, federal prosecutors said.

The FBI is also concerned that some of the buildings or vehicles at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge may be booby-trapped, prosecutors said in court documents filed Tuesday.

The documents do not say why the FBI is concerned about traps, but gives no indication any devices were found. The remaining four holdouts at the wildlife refuge surrendered Feb. 11.

"Occupiers appear to have excavated two large trenches and an improvised road on or adjacent to grounds containing sensitive artifacts," prosecutors said in the court filing.

Related: Four Remaining Oregon Occupiers, Surrounded By FBI, Surrender

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials have said they feared the road could have been constructed on lands containing artifacts from the Burns Paiute Tribe, but they have not been allowed back on the refuge since the occupation began.

Prosecutors outlined the state of the wildlife refuge in a response to attorneys representing Ammon Bundy, a rancher who led the armed occupation of the refuge on Jan. 2.

The occupation’s stated aim was the release from prison of two local ranchers ordered back to jail on a conviction of burning public land, and for the federal government to turn over public land to local control.

Bundy’s attorneys want access to the site so their client doesn’t get blamed for damage done by protesters who remained at the refuge for more than two weeks after Bundy, his brother, and other leaders were arrested on Jan. 26.

Related: Cliven Bundy, Father of Rancher Resistance, Faces Prison

One of the trenches contained human waste, U.S. Assistant Attorneys Ethan Knight and Geoffrey Barrow said in the government response. Rotting food stores are in living quarters at the refuge, and an outdoor campground was close to or on "a particularly sensitive cultural site," they said.

Bundy in a statement released by his attorneys Wednesday claimed that, when he was there, the occupiers cleaned up some buildings.

"We knew that those were public buildings, we respected that. And it was our desire always to take care of them," Bundy said in the message. Bundy claimed the occupiers found artifacts in the building, collected them and treated them with respect.

A spokesperson for the Fish and Wildlife Service has said that artifacts were stored at the refuge with the agreement of the tribe, and called the occupiers' actions "a violation."

Evidence collection should take around 21 days, federal prosecutors said. The government said it is willing to give the defense access after the evidence is processed but before the refuge reopens to the public.

The Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is about 30 miles south of the town of Burns, and about 300 miles southwest of Portland.