Ammon Bundy standoff Cliven Nevada Oregon
The group's leader, Ammon Bundy, talks to the press George Frey/Getty

An Oregon judge aims to charge the armed militia occupying a federal building in a wildlife refuge as much as $75,000 (£52,000) a day to cover costs for law enforcement and damage. That's how much the illegal takeover is costing the taxpayers, county judge Steve Grasty said at a local community meeting.

"We're going to send Mr. Bundy the bill," said Grasty, referring to the leader of the 12 militants, Ammon Bundy. "It seems fair to me if you're going to put that cost on this little tiny community. We're broke," he later told the New York Daily News.

The judge also urged residents attending the meeting not to provide food or supplies to the protesters who took over the refuge on 2 January. He called the militia "armed thugs."

The militants, who call themselves Citizens for Constitutional Freedom, are demanding that the federal government hand over publicly-owned land to ranchers and loggers. Leaders have cut down fences in the refuge as part of the plan to take the public land. They plan to hold a community meeting in nearby Burns on 15 January to more fully explain their position.

Jon Ritzheimer, an Arizona veteran and militia member, asked fellow "patriots" to join them in Oregon for "history in the making." He added: "Please look at this as a deployment, only this time I'm actually serving my country rather than being sent over seas to line the pockets of corrupt politicians."

Law enforcement officials are taking their time confronting the militants, fearing a potential bloodbath. But others, including Native Americans who consider the land part of their ancestral homelands, are lambasting the militia. Garrett VeneKlasen of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation traveled to the site to "tell all these people to get the hell off of my land," he told local TV station KTVZ.

Washington state resident Mark Heckert came with a cardboard sign reading: "Get the flock off my wildlife refuge."