Groups sue to block grazing permits for
pardoned Oregon ranchers
Congressman Walden emotionally describes the
injustice by our federal government in the West,
and the actual small acreage of grass burned by
Hammond's backfire. You Tube, 24 minutes.
Walden compares this with the literally millions
of acres burned by out of control wildfires on
government land, yet government employees and
agencies are never held accountable when their
controlled burns and backfire on private land
gets loose. These two ranchers spent time in
prison, and now the feds decided to send them
back to prison..a 5 year term. The feds will
ultimately try to take their land as with
millions of acres they've taken from other
ranchers, forcing them into bankruptcy.
Miller homestead wildfire 2012 burned 160,000 acres
Barry Point fire in Lake County 93,000 acres
2015 summer 799,974 acres burned in Oregon
Malhear Long Draw fire burned 557,000 acres.
"The federal government will frequently go on private land
without permission to backburn...that happens
all the time...nobody went to prison for
"Hammonds are in prison tonight for setting a back fire...139
acres...They will sit in prison...5 years."
BURNS, Ore. — Three environmental groups are suing to block the
renewal of a federal grazing permit for Dwight and Steven
Hammond, the Eastern Oregon ranchers whose imprisonment inspired
the 2016 occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near
Western Watersheds Project, WildEarth Guardians and the Center
for Biological Diversity filed a complaint May 13 in U.S.
District Court in Pendleton.
The lawsuit names Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, the Bureau
of Land Management and BLM Burns District Manager Jeffrey Rose
as defendants. Environmentalists are challenging whether Hammond
Ranches — run by father Dwight and son Steven — should be
allowed to graze cattle on four public allotments.
As one of his last acts in office, former Interior Secretary
Ryan Zinke signed an order in January renewing the Hammonds’
permit through 2024. The BLM had revoked the permit in 2014,
after the Hammonds were convicted of setting arson fires on the
land in 2012.
Zinke’s decision violates the Federal Land Policy and Management
Act since the Hammonds’ did not have a “satisfactory record of
performance” as required by the law, the groups argue.
In 2012, the Hammonds were convicted of setting arson fires on
the land, which they claimed was done to control the spread of
invasive weeds. Prosecutors in the case requested mandatory
five-year prison sentences, though a judge opted instead for
terms of three months, which both men served.
Then in 2015, the government successfully appealed the Hammonds’
prison sentences for arson and they were re-sentenced to serve
the full five years.
The case helped spark a 41-day occupation and standoff at the
nearby Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. The Hammonds did not
support the occupation.
President Donald Trump pardoned the Hammonds in July 2018. In
his order to renew the ranch’s grazing permit, Zinke wrote that
his decision was in line with the intent of the pardons, and “in
particular, their reflection of the president’s judgment as to
the seriousness of the Hammonds’ offenses.”
Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological
Diversity, said Zinke operated unilaterally outside of the
normal appeals process to reach his decision.
According to the lawsuit, the fires set by the Hammonds resulted
in damage to sage grouse habitat, increased the spread of
cheatgrass and put firefighters at risk.
“Somehow a presidential pardon is supposed to erase all the
grazing violations as if they never occurred. That’s
nonsensical,” Suckling said. “A presidential pardon does not in
any manner whatsoever erase the fact that the Hammonds violated
the grazing permit.”
Hammond Ranches could not be reached for comment. The BLM state
office in Portland also did not immediately return a message for
Suckling said Zinke’s order was politically motivated, and
violates principles of democracy and due process.
“It sets a horrible precedence,” he said. “What we need to do
out there is let the land managers and scientists do their work
in accordance with the processes in law.”
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