Trump Pardons Oregon Ranchers Convicted of Arson on Federal Lands

Donald Trump

"We brought it to the attention of the vice president, " said David Duquette, a Hermiston resident who serves as national strategic planner for the advocacy group Protect the Harvest. "Pardoning the Hammonds sends a risky message to America's park rangers, wildland firefighters, law enforcement officers, and public lands managers".

"Finally, an elected official did something", Bundy said.

And Jamie Rappaport Clark, president of the group Defenders of Wildlife, countered that the Hammonds were convicted of arson, a serious crime.

Prosecutors alleged in the indictment at the time that the Hammond family set fire to the rangeland after complaining the BLM was taking too long to complete required environmental studies before conducting controlled burn operations.

President Donald Trump on Tuesday pardoned two cattle ranchers convicted of arson in a case that sparked the 2016 armed occupation of an OR national wildlife refuge, The Associated Press reported.

Dwight and Steven Hammond were both ultimately convicted of setting a fire in 2001 that consumed 139 acres of federal property, while the younger rancher was also found guilty of lighting a "back burn" that spread onto an acre of public land in 2006.

One said Steven Hammond handed out matches with instructions to "light up the whole country", and another testified that Hammond barely escaped the roaring flames.

Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), who represents the area that includes the Hammonds' ranch, cheered Trump's pardon as a win against federal overreach. "This is something that would 'shock the conscience, ' according to Federal Judge Michael Hogan, who presided over the case and used his discretion in sentencing which was later reversed".

Prosecutors won an appeal and the Hammonds were resentenced in October 2015 to serve the mandatory minimum.

The Hammonds' case led to the armed 41-day occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, during which one occupier was shot dead by police.

A member of the group occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters walks to one of it's buildings, January 4, 2016, near Burns, Oregon. They engaged in an armed standoff with federal authorities, although the Hammonds turned themselves over to authorities to serve the additional time and did not heed the Bundys' call to resist.

I don't know or care whether Dwight and Steven Hammond were unfairly sentenced. Williams declined to comment on the pardons.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Knute Buehler, a state representative from Bend, said in a Twitter post that "justice has been served" for the Hammonds. They changed the name of the refuge to Harney County Resource Center, reflecting their belief that the federal government has only a limited right to own property within a state.

Bundy was also part of the the 2014 standoff at the Bundy Ranch in Nevada.

Lucas, whose company also reportedly owns the naming rights to the National Football League team's Lucas Oil Stadium, has lobbied extensively against animal-rights activists.

Steven Hammond, 46, gave thanks Wednesday to Trump and the many people who wrote to him and his father, 73-year-old Dwight Hammond, while they were in prison. He was especially pleased with the news coverage that pardon produced, the Associated Press reports, repeatedly referencing the emotional video of her being released from prison and running into her family's arms.

The move by Trump raised concerns that others would be encouraged to actively oppose federal control of public land.

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