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Monday, December 6, 2021

More anti-government sentiment

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A private sign welcomes visitors to the Diamond Valley, part of the Harney Basin in southeast Oregon, in mid-December 2015. The valley is home to large cattle ranches that rely on both private and public land for grazing. The prosecution of Dwight and Steven Hammond for burning public lands has brought fresh focus to the debate over how federal land is managed. (Les Zaitz/The Oregonian via AP)
A private sign welcomes visitors to the Diamond Valley, part of the Harney Basin in southeast Oregon, in mid-December 2015. (Les Zaitz/The Oregonian via AP)

The father and son of a prominent Oregon ranching family plan to surrender at a California prison next week after a judge ruled they served too little time for setting fires that spread to government lands they leased to graze cattle.

Dwight Hammond, 73, and Steven Hammond, 46, said they lit the fires in 2001 and 2006 to reduce the growth of invasive plants and protect their property from wildfires. Cole

The two were convicted of the arsons three years ago and served time — the father three months, the son one year. But a judge ruled their terms were too short under federal law and ordered them back to prison for about four years each.

The decision has generated controversy in a remote part of the state where the Hammonds are well-known for their generosity and community contributions. It’s also playing into a long-simmering conflict between ranchers and the U.S. government over the use of federal land for cattle grazing.

In particular, the Hammonds’ new sentences touched a nerve with far right groups who repudiate federal authority. The son of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who was involved in a standoff with the government over grazing rights, is organizing opposition.

In 2014, after the Bureau of Land Management sought to remove Bundy’s cattle from public rangeland, armed militiamen confronted federal officials. Bundy stopped paying grazing fees over 20 years ago and owes more than $1 million.

This month, his son Ammon Bundy and a handful of militiamen from other states arrived in Burns, some 60 miles from the Hammond ranch.

In an email to supporters, Ammon Bundy criticized the U.S. government for a failed legal process. Federal lawyers prosecuted the Hammonds under an anti-terrorism law that required a five-year minimum sentence, though they have declined to say why.

Ammon Bundy wrote that the Hammonds are not terrorists and didn’t commit any crimes. He also shamed the Harney County sheriff for not protecting the Hammonds. The sheriff didn’t respond to calls from The Associated Press.

Ammon Bundy and other right-wing leaders have called on armed militia around the country to come support the Hammonds. The groups will hold a rally and protest in town Saturday.

“If what is happening to the Hammonds is allowed, it will set a standard of what these powerful people will do to all of us,” Ammon Bundy wrote in an email, referring to the federal government.

The Hammonds have not welcomed the Bundys’ help.

“Neither Ammon Bundy nor anyone within his group/organization speak for the Hammond Family,” the Hammonds’ lawyer W. Alan Schroeder wrote to Sheriff David Ward.

Dwight Hammond said he and his son plan to peacefully report to prison Jan. 4 as ordered by the judge.

“We gave our word that’s what we would do, and we intend to act on it,” he told the AP.

Prosecutors said the Hammonds’ grazing leases didn’t give them exclusive use of the land or permission to burn public property. The fire charred just under 140 acres.

Though the family doesn’t want confrontation, Dwight Hammond maintained their case isn’t about fires: It’s the climax of the government’s efforts to take their land at a time when saving endangered species has gained in importance.

Dwight Hammond said he and his own father bought the ranch in 1964; the purchase price included several federal grazing allotments — the rights to lease public land for cattle grazing. But as the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge came to surround the Hammonds’ property, the rancher said, the family had to stave off pressure from the federal government to sell the ranch.

Over the years, the government chipped away at their grazing allotments, taking some and increasing fees on others, Dwight Hammond said. New federal rules made it harder to renew permits.

After father and son were convicted of the arsons, the government declined to renew their grazing permit. The family is appealing that decision.

“We paid hard dollars over fifty years ago for the right to graze. It isn’t right for them to take it away from us,” Dwight Hammond said, adding they’ve had to rent pastures from other ranchers to keep their cows fed.

An attorney for the ranchers, Kendra Mathews, declined to discuss the case. The U.S. attorney’s office also wouldn’t comment. But in an opinion piece published this month in the Burns Times Herald, Oregon’s U.S. attorney, Bill Williams, said the Hammonds received a fair trial and lawful sentences.

Williams said the government has never called the ranchers terrorists, and prosecutors acknowledged they were good people who contributed to their community.

Referring to the militia, Williams said: “Any criminal behavior contemplated by those who may object to the court’s mandate … will not be tolerated.”

As for the Hammonds, they hope to keep the family business going with help from relatives. Maybe, Dwight Hammond said, when his son gets out of prison, “he can still have a family and a ranch to go back to.”

Copyright © 2016 Capitol Hill Blue

Copyright  © 2016 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved

5 thoughts on “More anti-government sentiment”

  1. Just FYI – Farm subsidies are a lot bigger than foreign aid, even to Israel. I cite:

    Giving, in 2014, U.S. foreign aid (military, anyhow) as 3.1 billion to Israel.

    And also from 2014:

    Giving an enormous bill, of which some goes directly to farmers (and the rest indirectly, with the government buying food in the form of food stamps)

    Commodity Programs: 44.4 billion
    Crop Insurance: 90 billion
    Conservation: 57.6 billion
    Trade: 3.5 billion

    For a total of 195.5 billion for farmers. The U.S. Government spends more on _advertising_ American crops overseas than they gave to Israel.

    “Trade, $3.5 billion over 10 years (little change). This money is used to promote U.S. crops overseas and provide food aid abroad.”

    Incidentally, though, I agree with you. Israel is still building settlements unlawfully in occupied territory, still illegally occupies foreign lands, still collects all the taxes from Gaza and uses them for itself, and is effectively a theocracy that regularly commits offensive acts of war against neighboring countries and war crimes against civilians.

    Not a country I think anyone should support.


    PS – I wonder if Mr. Saban would support Bernie Sanders for President? If he were elected, would you think that at least one branch of the U.S. government wasn’t in the pocket of the 1%? Consider it. J.

  2. That terrorism charge is ridiculous: Obviously they did not intended to terrorize anybody, and intent is the very definition of terrorism. The prosecutor is insane. They just wanted to do a controlled burn on their land. I have actually done that myself in a Fire Ecology class I was taking.

    • What they wanted to do and what they did do were two different things. The fires they started spread to land that was not theirs to burn. You may build a fire on your land if you want to. If that fire spreads to my land, that’s arson. And public land belongs to all of us.

      There is no ‘terrorism’ charge. That came from the remark of one Ammon Bundy. Sometimes I wonder if he’s just unknowing or deliberately telling porkies…

      “Ammon Bundy wrote that the Hammonds are not terrorists and didn’t commit any crimes.”

      Aside from, oh, I dunno, arson? Missed that bit, did you, Mr. Bundy? I will concur that they are not terrorists – Nobody said they were, except maybe you.

      And to be perfectly honest, if I were the landlord (and, as members of the public, as far as grazing leases on public land goes, we are) setting a fire that burns my building down would very much be a reason to revoke your lease, whatever perpetuity you claim.

      The Hammonds seem to be respectable and honourable people.

      The Bundys and their followers? Not so much (keep in mind Mr. Cliven Bundy was running his cattle on public land and not paying his grazing leases. Akin, as it were, to a lodger not paying rent for twenty years. You and I are the landlords here. Mr. Cliven Bundy was ripping us off for his own personal profit. That he has washed his hands of this affair is not excusing him).

      Happy New Year,


      • Regardless, the govertnment treats our citizens poorly when it comes to the above issues.
        Our govertnment sent billions of dollars every year to Israel. Then they enforced the maximum laws in hard working Americans. In this case farmers.

        This isn’t a right or left scenario, they are both the same corrupt politicians that received millions in donations. Both parties have huge Zionist donors. Mr Saban- pro Hillary- Mr. Adelson and the Koch brothers- pro republicans., etc.

        Learn the dual USA Zionists politicians in power. Congressmen, senators in both, democrats and republicans. Both parties have been bough by the 1% of our country which they have infiltrated and changed our country’s laws and principals. The judicial system is rigged.

        I agreed with someone comment. There’s an snake under all of this issues. Someone wants to take the land back. Maybe they found gold, oil or greedy corrupt builders.

        4 years sentence, to decent hard working farmer’s that are working hard in their land
        Sounds outraged.

        Wall stree criminals are out and about after they bankrupt our country.
        They don’t pay taxes, laugh at our 99%, and the govertnment does nothing!

        God save America ?? ??

  3. “We paid hard dollars over fifty years ago for the right to graze.”

    If this purchase contained the right to perpetually renew, the (several) grazing allotments at the then rate, was included in the “Purchase price” the Hammonds’ have a point. However, I am sure the “rights” do not include that several allotments would be available all the time. As any landlord can do, the government can change the terms of a lease at any time upon renewal of said lease or completely stop offering land or grazing rights leasing at any time.

    Now, it does appear the Hammonds’ are doing the peaceful and honorable thing by turning themselves in for the extended prison time, I do think it is a s**tty decision by the Judge.

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