Arsonist ranchers who were pardoned by Trump are awarded grazing permits for public land

Two Oregon ranchers who were convicted of deliberately setting fires that burned public land will be granted grazing privileges under a proposed Bureau of Land Management decision.
Dwight Hammond Jr., Steven Hammond (U.S. Justice Department) 
Dwight Hammond Jr., 78, and his son, Steven Hammond, 51, were pardoned by President Trump in 2018 while they were serving five-year prison sentences for their arson convictions. Their case had been an impetus for the 40-day armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2016, whose organizers were protesting federal land ownership.
In one of the arson incidents, in September 2001, the Hammonds were leading a hunting party on their ranch near Burns, Oregon,  when they handed matches to their companions and urged them to “light up the whole country on fire.”  Prosecutors claim they were intending to destroy evidence that they had illegally shot some deer, which they crippled but did not track. The fires they set burned onto public land.
Steven Hammond was also convicted of setting fires during a warning of high wildfire danger in August 2005, as wildland firefighters battled a blaze nearby.
The Hammonds had also initially been charged with setting three fires in August 2006 that burned more than 47,000 acres of public land, said The Hill reporter JJ MacNab in her coverage of the case. The 2006 incidents were dropped as part of a plea deal.
The BLM’s proposed decision published on Tuesday would grant the Hammonds 10-year grazing permits for 26,378 acres of public land near the Steens Mountain Wilderness. They were selected over three other applicants.
In 2014, the BLM denied the pair their requested grazing permits because of “malicious disregard for human life and public property (that) shows contempt for BLM regulation of public lands,” said a Monday press release from the Western Watersheds Project, a nonprofit environmental conservation group that plans to challenge the new decision.
In 2019, on his last day in office, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke awarded permits to the Hammonds. That decision was overturned by a federal court in Oregon.
The BLM notification of last week’s action says protests may be submitted by email to blm_or_bu_bca_amp@blm.gov.
 
 

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