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:
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.