If you follow OFB on social media, we hope you’ve noticed our #SaveTheHammonds campaign to bring to light gross injustice by the federal government on two Eastern Oregon ranchers. Sign the petition at savethehammonds.com. Read on for the backstory.
Elderly Harney County rancher Dwight Hammond and his son, Steven (pictured above, and a former OFB board member and Harney County Farm Bureau president) were convicted in 2010 for two fires they set in an effort to protect their ranch. The fires, one in 2001 and one in 2006, left their private land and burned less than 140 acres, combined, of BLM land.
BLM and the U.S. Dept. of Justice prosecuted the Hammonds under charges subject to the 1996 Anti-Terrorism & Effective Death Penalty Act. The government used a kitchen-sink strategy, charging them with 19 counts. They were not found guilty of any charges, except for the two fires, which they admitted setting. For their sentence, both served federal prison time (Steven over a year, Dwight three months), and together they paid over $400,000 in restitution and fines to the federal government. They made mistakes, broke the law, had a fair trial, and paid their debt to society.
Now, the federal government plans to send them back to prison because the presiding judge in the case refused to give the Hammonds the mandatory minimum five-year sentence under the terrorism act. 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.
Despite the judge’s protest, the feds appealed the Hammonds’ sentences and won in the 9th circuit court of appeals. The Supreme Court declined to take the case after that loss. Later this month, the district court will be compelled to resentence both Hammonds using the minimums, unless BLM and DOJ agree to grant the Hammonds some leniency.
There is no debate about whether the Hammonds broke the law. A jury found that they did. However, OFB believes BLM is guilty of abhorrent overreach in insisting the Hammonds be tried using charges subject to terrorism laws and be sent back to federal prison.
This prosecution will have a chilling effect across the West among ranchers and others who rely on federal allotments and permits. It will harm the positive relationship many ranchers and organizations have worked to forge with the bureau, and the hard work that has been done on the range.
It also is hypocritical given BLM’s own harm to the range, which goes without consequence. It is unjust. OFB worked quietly behind the scenes with BLM through the spring and summer. That diligent diplomatic effort was fruitless.
Now it’s time to expose BLM’s mismanagement and overreach to the light of public scrutiny. You can do two things to help.
1. Sign and share the online petition at savethehammonds.com where you will join nearly 2,000 signers from 41 states.
2. Send information about BLM mismanagement, mistreatment, and threat or damage to human or livestock life and/or property to OFB’s Dave Dillon at email@example.com.
By Oregon Farm Bureau
The state’s largest general farm organization, Oregon Farm Bureau (OFB) is a grassroots, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization representing the interests of the state’s farmers and ranchers in the public and policymaking arenas. First established in Oregon in 1919, Farm Bureau is organized in all 36 counties and has 7,000 member families that are professionally engaged in agriculture.