SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward says he was dealing with armed militants for months before they occupied a national wildlife refuge in Oregon in January.

Ward was in Spokane Tuesday at the invitation of the FBI to speak to law enforcement officials about his experiences during the takeover. He was also interviewed by Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich for his weekly podcast.

The Spokesman-Review reported Wednesday that Knezovich was impressed at how the Oregon sheriff, on the job for less than a year, handled the high-profile standoff.

The federal government has charged 26 people with taking over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge for 41 days this winter in a protest over land policy. Ward, who has just four deputies, said the militants first requested a meeting on Nov. 5.