BLM intends to give grazing permits to members of the Hammond family that served time for arson on public lands

Would grant access to 26,000 acres for $1.35/month per animal

Dwight and Steven Hammond
Booking photos of Dwight and Steven Hammond (Photos: U.S. Department of Justice)

The Bureau of Land Management is proposing to issue four grazing permits to the Oregon-based Hammond Ranch which for 10 years would allow them access to 26,000 acres of taxpayers’ land for $1.35 per animal unit month.

On September 30, 2001 the two Hammonds distributed boxes of matches to everyone in their hunting party with instructions to“light up the whole country on fire”. Initially they ignited fires on their property but the fires spread onto 139 acres of federal land.

Steven Hammond was also convicted of setting a series of fires on August 22, 2006. Those ignitions, during Red Flag Warning conditions, compromised the safety of firefighters who were working on another fire nearby. Some of them were forced to retreat from the area for their own safety. They were given advice and led to safety via radio by an orbiting Air Attack.

The Hammond case inspired the 40-day armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2016. Robert LaVoy Finicum, one of the occupiers died, but brothers Ammon and Ryan Bundy, the accused leaders of the occupation, were not convicted.

While the Hammonds were in prison for the arson convictions, President Trump issued them full pardons. For more information about the Hammonds, check out the detailed timeline we put together covering their interactions with the legal system between 1994 and 2015.

Anyone can protest the BLM’s proposed decision by sending a letter, by January 13, 2020, to:

Don Rotell
Field Manager, Andrews/Steens Resource Areas
Burns District BLM
28910 Hwy 20 W.
Hines, OR 97738

Below is a press release from the Western Watersheds Project about the proposed grazing permit.

January 4, 2021

BURNS, Ore.  – In the very last moments of 2020, the Bureau of Land Management issued a proposed decision to award grazing privileges to Hammonds Ranches, Inc., despite the history of abuses of grazing privileges by these public land’s ranchers—including actions leading to arson convictions. The BLM notified interested parties of the decision on New Year’s Day, a federal holiday.

“Giving the permit to the Hammonds shows a flagrant disregard for the rule of law, both by the former permittees and by Secretary Bernhardt, and is clearly a political move rather than a responsible allocation of public lands,” said Erik Molvar, Executive Director of Western Watersheds Project. “There is a documented history of permit violations, criminal convictions, and overgrazing of allotments as recently as 2019.”

The proposed grazing decision was posted late in the day on December 31, 2020, and the online planning site states that the Hammonds Ranches, Inc. “will be apportioned preference due to their extensive historic use of these allotments, past proper use of rangeland resources, a high level of general need, and advantages conferred by topography.” The Hammonds past “proper” use of the allotments has included arson, unauthorized livestock use, overgrazing, and alleged intimidation of federal employees. Just six years ago, the Bureau of Land Management refused to reissue the same permits because, “The Hammonds’ malicious disregard for human life and public property shows contempt for BLM regulation of public lands.”

“It’s reminiscent of Secretary Ryan Zinke’s decision to give the Hammonds permits on his very last day in office on January 2, 2019,” said Sarah McMillan, Conservation Director for WildEarth Guardians. “That decision was unlawful and rightly overturned by the courts. With one foot out the door, the Trump Administration is trying, again, to allow these bad-actor permittees to run roughshod over public lands.”

The groups plan to protest the proposed decision.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

16 thoughts on “BLM intends to give grazing permits to members of the Hammond family that served time for arson on public lands”

  1. This article is a bunch of crap. Our federal land, managed by the gov. are the poorest managed land here out west. The private land managers are the ones who have an interest in improving the lands as did the Hammons, other ranchers, timber companies, etc. Look at all the federal properties, overgrown firetraps. Look at how the gov. has managed out fisheries. Very few fish left. Propaganda at it’s best, this article.

  2. Just as in fire and forestry, it would behoove you all to do a young mountain of research and really understand the positions of both sides now, before spouting off like a leaky drip torch and doing any more damage. That research involves a whole lot of people who know a lot more about these incidents and their causes than most of the people here. Look at the aerial video of the killing of Lavoy Finnicum, for one thing. Remember that writers are not innocent parties. They are not above turning a phrase to make themselves sound good. A-a-and this goes for bureaucrats as well, whether they are local state or federal people. This entire situation was carpet bombed with lies, going back quite a few years..

    1. Why, Roberto, do some get away with breaking laws and not playing by the rules?

      Did the Hammonds commit arson burning 139 acres of PUBLIC land in 2001 and start another fire as a result of violating a burn ban in 2006? Did they or did they not illegally hunt and slaughter on Federal land?

      Weren’t the Hammonds in effect trying to control the public lands solely for their own use and profit regardless of others? The very same land they protested the Federal government’s control of? Why is this protest and costly damage justified but others not? In addition to this, the Hammonds had violently threatened and harassed the lives of Federal employees and their families, that is NEVER justified.

      The Hammonds received the statutory minimum sentence of 5 years – a deal they accepted in order to avoid facing 4 other pending charges.

      No one should be able to defy rules that way and get away with it – let alone be awarded more land. Whether or not you believe in their cause does not justify their means.

        1. Wendy presents us with a tangible volume of actual case facts & information here on this very disappointing, “abuse of our public lands” subject.
          Roberto presents us with little more than a hollow rant, aimed at, “stirring up the pot” or that proverbial “leaky hot drip torch” all being quite ineffective in distracting us away from some “real news” for once.
          The sad legacy of what these pardons will actually mean to us in the coming years.
          So much environmental damage has been done, in just four years.
          Let’s see this “young mountain” of research you speak of.
          -Hasta, Jamie

    2. Finnicum was trash who played a stupid game and won the ultimate stupid prize. The Hammonds are criminals and should be barred from anything on public lands

  3. Thanks so much, Bill, for getting this out there!
    Why the BLM would give land to arsonists who have absolutely no regard/respect for our land and wildlife is completely beyond me. The ONLY logical answer is corruption. They should still be in prison.

  4. I think that the above commentators are over-stating the Case against the Hammonds .
    Perhaps,they will now be on their best behavior. That is, unless we are all to be Vegetarians.
    I’m sure, that now I’ll get a lot of Flack , however, you know ,First Amendment!

    1. Chuck,

      Like Senator Susan Collins explained her vote to acquit President Trump last February, “I think he’s learned his lesson.”

      Knowing a few F&G and F&W law enforcement personnel in the field, and a few neighbors, some leopards spots never change. That would require a conscience and admittance of events that led to their convictions. Pardons do not indicate, innocence.

      1. It is absurd to reward convicted public lands arsonists with grazing rights even if they have been pardoned. They are still guilty of public lands arson. This is Bernhardt sticking a finger in the eye of conservationists. Arsonists rarely stop being arsonists. It is only sensible to throw out the grazing rights and give them to somebody that won’t set the land on fire.

    2. What has choosing a food style preference eg vegetarian or otherwise have to do with allowing convicted felons.
      Felons who not only damaged the land & environment but also endangered human life?
      These & people like them should have lifetime bans on land & grazing permits.
      It is nefarious & irresponsible of the BLM to not allow but encourage this behaviour.

  5. “With one foot out the door, the Trump Administration is trying, again, to allow these bad-actor permittees to run roughshod over public lands.”

    Hopefully the Biden administration will reverse this stupid move.

  6. This is blatantly absurd. These thugs have wreaked havoc on our publicly owned public lands.
    Who the heck issued those permits? And by what authority?


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