In a show of compassion for the common man, President Trump issued a pardon for two Oregon ranchers convicted of arson and sent to federal prison under the 1996 Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act.
Citing “conflicting evidence,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders went on to say that justice was “overdue for Dwight and Steven Hammond, both of whom are entirely deserving of these Grants of Executive Clemency.”
Dwight Hammond, 76, and his son Steven, 49, own a sprawling cattle ranch adjacent to Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, established in 1908 by President Theodore Roosevelt. The federal government began refusing to allow cattle trails to cross the refuge for grazing lands in the late 1980s, specifically targeting the Hammonds, the only ranching family that continues to maintain a large tract of private land and graze by paid permit on Bureau of Land Management property.
But the cattle ranching families predate Roosevelt’s land grab, as early Oregonians were farming and ranching on record in 1870 – about 40 years before the Bull Moose decreed conservation efforts in the United States.
The plight of the Hammonds sparked the 2016 occupation and stand-off at the refuge, bringing the Bundy clan to Harney County and deadly conflict when one protester was shot dead by Oregon State Police.
And then everything exploded.
Once Upon a Time
In 2001, Dwight Hammond was in the middle of a prescribed burn to reduce overcrowding Junipers on his property when the fire spread to BLM lands. It affected one acre and didn’t harm livestock, people, or destroy buildings. When all 187,757 acres are considered, this one-acre accidental fire is hardly a crime worthy of imprisonment for terrorist activities.
His son Steven lit a back burn in 2006 to protect the family ranch headquarters from a series of lightning-lit fires, which burned the same acre plus an additional 139, sending him to prison as well.
They served time in 2013 and were released early – until a different judge demanded they serve the full five years. So in 2016, back to the big house they went.
Locals were incensed and pleaded with President Obama for clemency. Erin Maupin, former BLM watershed specialist and neighbor, stated:
“The Hammonds are at the top of the mountain. There is green grass all the way up, all summer long, from April to September. The purpose behind this is that they are the last major private landowner on the Steens Mountain. If they get rid of the Hammonds, there will basically be an extension of the ‘cow free’ wilderness from the top of the mountain down to the Malheur Refuge. So that’s how they roll.”
Yes, the federal government rolled right over tax paying, hard-working, good people without an ounce of remorse.
But President Trump recognized the heavy-handedness in sentencing both men, and the Hammonds became the eighth and ninth individuals to be granted a pardon.
Sanders explained Trump’s reasons:
“The Hammonds are devoted family men, respected contributors to their local community, and have widespread support from their neighbors, local law enforcement, and farmers and ranchers across the West. Justice is overdue for Dwight and Steven Hammond, both of whom are entirely deserving of these Grants of Executive Clemency.”
Meanwhile… Back at the Ranch
Citizens of this nation who have carved a living in the harshest of environments, reside in rural communities, and contribute to the feeding Americans should not be land grab targets for the federal government. They may not live in the Swamp or city cesspools, but when it comes to protecting their land, family, livelihood, and community, there are no finer people to have in your camp.
Or as Eastern Oregon U.S. Representative Greg Walden (R-OR) put it, “Today is a win for justice, and an acknowledgment of our unique way of life in the high desert, rural West.”
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