This week the U.S. ranching industry is celebrating after President Trump’s pardon of Oregon ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond. The Hammond’s were convicted in 2012 of intentionally setting fire to public lands after a prescribed burn on their private land moved onto BLM land.
“Obviously, when we get some good news like the pardoning of the Hammonds to start our day it makes everything just a little bit better around here after a couple of year of working on this tough issue,” said Ethan Lane, Executive Director of the Public Lands Council and NCBA Federal Lands.
He says like others, they were pleased with President Trump’s pardon of Dwight and Steven Hammond but knows a lot of hard work still lies ahead to rebuild lost trust.
“The administration taking this step today and pardoning the Hammond’s and sending them home is sending that message that we get it and understand we have some ground to cover to rebuild trust with ranchers,” said Lane. “You know you can’t get any real conservation work done on the range without ranchers doing the important and critical work that they do every day just as a matter of their normal ranch management. So, in order to maintain that benefit and preserve that benefit for federal land users across the multi-use spectrum, you have to rebuild that trust.”
The Hammond’s are longtime members of the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association. OCA’s Executive Director Jerome Rosa says this week’s presidential pardon is long overdue justice.
“The five-year prison sentence would “shock the conscience” and be “grossly disproportionate to the severity of their conduct” according to US District Judge Michael Robert Hogan in 2012” said Rosa. “The five-year mandatory minimum under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 was not intended for a small rangeland fire.
The decision to appeal Judge Hogan’s order was “rare and unjust. We are glad that President Trump had the courage to go thru and pardon the Hammond’s.”
Other states like Montana where ranchers utilize public lands for grazing have also been following this issue very closely.
“The punishment didn’t fit the crime in this case,” said Jay Bodner, Executive Vice President of Montana Stockgrowers Association. “It was extremely harsh for what we would recognize as a slight oversight. There wasn’t a lot of damage that occurred to the federal land. The small amount of acreage that got burned we thought that federal prison was extremely harsh in this.”
In a prepared statement the White House said “Justice is overdue for Dwight and Steven Hammond, both of whom are entirely deserving of these Grants of Executive Clemency.”
With the Hammond’s now out of prison, work has already begun to make sure they receive their federal grazing permits back from the federal government.