The Demise of America’s Ranchers – Oregon Ranchers to go to Prison as Terrorists

 In Domestic, opinion

Two men, Dwight and Steve Hammond are headed to Federal Prison for 5 years as of January. Their crime?  Fires that got out of control and burned “federal land.” So they were sentenced as “terrorists.”

Oregon ranchers prosecuted under a Terrorist act

Terming it an arson, the feds went after the Hammond family to destroy them. The two  men were sentenced for fires that happened in 2001 and 2006. In 2010 they were convicted of setting those backfires.  Steve served 11 months and Dwight 3 months.

The men were originally accused of 19 counts of arson, but the jury dismissed all counts except two, the ones the men actually set as backfires to save their winter feed, totaling about 140 acres. The damages  amounted to approximately $100 and some burned junipers (those are extremely prolific desert scrub plants).

“After the original trial, Judge Michael Hogan said the crimes the Hammonds were convicted for “could not have been conduct intended under (the terrorism law).” He said five years of jail time “would result in a sentence which is grossly disproportionate to the severity of the offenses here…” and would “shock the conscience.” This is the judge who presided over the entire trial and knew every fact of the case.” Oregon Farm Bureau

But the DOJ appealed to get the maximum mandatory sentence of 5 years under the  Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996.  The government got their appeal, minus time served, thanks to the 9th Circuit court of Appeals.

oregon ranchers

The Hammond family – photo via the Bundy Ranch

The Double Standard 

The BLM often lets fires get out of control. It happens frequently. Personally I watched it happen on a ranch in Oregon one summer. But when this Oregon rancher set backfires to save his winter feed, it burned into 140 acres of federal land. They did their best to extinguish those flames, and required no outside assistance. Never mind, the Federal Government is on a mission to punish everyone except themselves.

Did you also know that BLM restrictions prevent local fire-fighting efforts? Oh yes, if the BLM sets a fire and it burns out of the designated area, it’s too bad. And no BLM employee is EVER prosecuted.

From the Fence Post

During her tenure with as a full time BLM employee from 1997-1999, [Erin] Maupin recalls other fires accidentally spilling over onto BLM land, but only the Hammonds have been charged, arrested and sentenced, she said. Ranchers might be burning invasive species or maybe weeds in the ditch. “They would call and the BLM would go and help put it out and it was not [a] big deal.”

On the flip side, Maupin remembers numerous times that BLM-lit fires jumped to private land. Neighbors lost significant numbers of cattle in more than one BLM fire that escaped intended containment lines and quickly swallowed up large amounts of private land. To her knowledge, no ranchers have been compensated for lost livestock or other loss of property such as fences.

So what has changed? The environmentalists now have federal backing.

This administration vocally supports the radical environmentalists such as the Oregon Natural Desert Association. And it’s those environmentalists who are behind this push- even to the point of vindictive prosecution. There is a parcel of land that the ranchers exchanged their grazing permits for so that the feds could create a “Cow Free Wilderness.”

Also from the Fence Post,

…The Maupins themselves had a small lease that also bordered the “cow-free wilderness” and the Oregon Natural Desert Association was “relentless in their pursuit to have us off, in order to expand the cow-free wilderness,” Maupin said. The group would criticize the ranchers’ water usage, causing them to pipe water to their cattle, which in turn instigated more complaints from the group…

Prosecuted as terrorists

“I think that’s the biggest point of all of this – how can you prosecute people as terrorists when they aren’t a terrorist?” Erin Maupin

Good question. The Hammond family is well liked, kind, helpful and honored by their rancher friends.
But the family now has an uncertain future. They have sold cows. The two men are going to prison. Mrs. Hammond says they have not been able to renew their grazing permits and she doesn’t know what is going to happen now.

The Hammond’s attorney says that their 140 acre backfire pales in comparison to the EPA spills in Colorado. But no one is going to prison over those monstrous disasters. The only hope at this point is if the BLM and the DOJ agree to grant leniency to this family.  But given the horrendous overreach committed by the Federal Government in this case, is that even possible? Even though the Oregon Farm Bureau worked “diligently” behind the scenes to attempt to mitigate this situation, their efforts went unheeded.

The Bureau of Land MANAGEMENT was originally created to manage PUBLIC lands that you and I could enjoy and utilize as citizens of America. They now consider themselves landowners, as do all other federal agencies – the USFS, EPA, etc. They do what they wish with the public lands under their purview, often selling off tracts of them to private concerns run by environmentalists. Citizens are often considered trespassers, terrorists who try to harm ‘their holdings.’

As long as environmentalists and federal agencies are allowed commit this kind of overreach, American ranchers are doomed. What will you do, America? Will you continue to allow this and blithely pretend nothing is wrong?

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