Dwight and Steven Hammonds are back on the ranch, after a long and lengthy battle over grazing rights and property management. But even after a pardon and release from prison, the journey back to reinstating their grazing permits has just begun.
Ethan Lane, executive director of the Public Lands Council talked with host Chip Flory about the saga on AgriTalk during the 2019 Cattle Industry and NCBA Tradeshow.
The Hammonds were back-burning on private property, a normal ranching method to lower wildfire risk and control timber encroachment, when some federal lands caught on fire.
“That’s an important part of this,” Lane said. “It was a normal farming and ranching practice.”
Republicans and Democrats disagree on a lot of issues, but protecting deserts in Southern California doesn’t seem to be one of them.
Legislation was introduced this month in both chambers of Congress, by members of both major parties, with the goal of protecting 716,000 acres of regional desert, adding a swath nearly as big as Rhode Island to regional land that’s already under protection. New protected zones would include off-highway vehicle recreation areas and wilderness, and an expansion of several National Parks.
The identical bills, sponsored by Rep. Paul Cook, R-Yucca Valley, in the House of Representatives and California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, in the Senate, are the result of years of work with the off-roading community, conservationists and local governments. For different reasons, all of those interests want to see the protections in place.
In 2002, Grant County, Oregon banned the United Nations by citizen initiative. The referendum wasn’t close: 58 percent of voters said to keep the United Nations out of Eastern Oregon. The sponsors asserted the United Nations sought to impose “world taxation,” take away guns and private property and bring about “one world controlled education.”
That same year, Grant County voted to petition Congress for title to all federal lands inside the county. A decade later, county commissioners passed a measure forbidding the U.S. Forest Service from closing roads or trails.
Federal investigators released a report Thursday finding “no evidence” former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke committed misconduct while rolling back the borders of a national monument in Utah.
The report comes nearly a month after Zinke left office, in part because he was the focus of an unusually high number of federal investigations for someone of his position. Zinke announced he was leaving the Trump administration in mid-December 2018.
The Mountain States Legal Foundation claims two former Interior secretaries among its alumni, and conservative activists are pushing to add a third individual to that group: former foundation President William Perry Pendley.
Pendley, who had helmed the conservative law firm since 1989, left his post late last year without fanfare.
“BTW, no longer with @MSLF but NEVER retired; busy as ever!” Pendley posted to his Twitter account on Dec. 9, referring to the foundation.
But a few days later, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced his resignation from the Trump administration, and Pendley’s name became among those floated to replace the former Montana lawmaker.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has restored grazing permits for the Hammond family from Oregon after losing the right to graze following federal charges that were later pardoned.
The announcement was made on Jan. 28 that Hammond Ranches would be able to graze their BLM allotments again. The BLM had stripped the right to graze after Dwight and Steven Hammond were convicted of felony arson in 2012. They were sentenced to five years imprisonment under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996.
Federal ownership of vast acreage across the West is vulnerable to a constitutional challenge by affected state governments, according to a public lands attorney.
While court rulings until now have supported the federal government’s control over Western public lands, attorney George Wentz said those cases predate the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976, which made federal ownership permanent.
An argument could be made that federal ownership of major swaths of 12 Western states effectively deprives them of the same sovereignty as the remaining 38 states, he said.
“Why are we inferior because we chose to live in the West?” Wentz asked growers at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual convention in New Orleans on Jan. 13.
RENO, Nev. (AP) — The U.S. Forest Service has built a new corral for wild horses in Northern California, which could allow it to bypass federal restrictions and sell the animals for slaughter.
The agency acknowledged in court filings in a potentially precedent-setting legal battle that it built the pen for mustangs gathered in the fall on national forest land along the California-Nevada border because of restrictions on such sales at other federal holding facilities.
The agency denies claims by horse advocates it has made up its mind to sell the more than 250 horses for slaughter. But it also says it may have no choice because of the high cost of housing the animals and continued ecological impacts it claims overpopulated herds are having on federal rangeland.
The federal government is preparing to appeal the dismissal of charges against Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, his sons, and supporters for the 2014 armed standoff with Bureau of Land Management agents
SALT LAKE CITY — The Trump administration’s proposed rollback of an Obama-era rule defining what waterways fall under federal jurisdiction was hailed by ranchers and private property advocates and blasted by environmental groups.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers released proposed revisions to the 2015 rule that was challenged by 21 states, including Utah.
American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall said Obama’s rule required “drastic” action by farmers and ranchers across the country, spawning a nationwide campaign called “Ditch the Rule.”
At the press event announcing the proposed revisions, Duvall said all presidents of the federation’s 50 chapters were in the room as a show of support.
David Bernhardt’s new job means top two US environmental agencies will be helmed by people once paid by industry.
Ryan Zinke’s exit as interior secretary elevates a former lobbyist to the job, meaning the top two US environmental agencies will now be run by people previously paid by industry.
The deputy secretary, David Bernhardt, will take over at least temporarily when Zinke steps down at the end of the year. He also could be in the running to head the department permanently. And at the Environmental Protection Agency, the acting administrator, Andrew Wheeler, who was a coal lobbyist, will be nominated to keep the post.
Bernhardt was a fossil fuels and water industry lobbyist at the law firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck before he joined the Trump administration. He was previously the chief lawyer at the interior department under the George W Bush administration .
Carson City – The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has approved the Bently Land Acquisition Project of nearly 15,000 acres of environmentally important lands owned by Bently Family Limited Partnership. The roughly 50 disparate parcels are in-holding lands in the BLM managed Pine Nut Mountains of Douglas, Carson, and Lyon Counties. The properties are located within a central 20-mile section of the Pine Nut Mountains, which run north-south for some 40 miles. To learn more about this pending land transfer, we spoke with Victoria Wilkins, acting field manager for the Sierra Front Field Office of the BLM in Carson City …
RENO, Nev. (News 4 & Fox 11) — The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) today announced that Jon Raby, a veteran BLM land manager and leader, has been named State Director in Nevada.
Raby will report to the BLM Nevada State Office in Reno in early January 2019.
Raby, who is currently serving as the Acting Montana/Dakotas State Director will lead the management of 48 million acres of public land in Nevada and 59 million acres of Federal mineral resources.
Three years before the impoundment of Cliven Bundy’s cattle turned into an armed confrontation between anti-government groups and federal agents, the FBI made an assessment that the Nevada rancher personally was unlikely to be violent in the event of conflict. The agency suggested a novel solution to Bundy’s 20 years of unpaid bills, one designed to put the dispute to rest: drop the fines he owed altogether.
The FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit, based in Quantico, Va., determined in 2011 that the rancher was unlikely to comply with federal court orders to move his 900 animals off federal land, where they had been illegally grazing, because “he only has enough land to handle less than 100 head of cattle.” Though the Bureau of Land Management was concerned that allowing Bundy to avoid paying federal grazing fees and fines could lead to violence, the FBI thought otherwise.
“BLM may wish to consider waiving the existing fines, as a gesture of willingness to participate in discussions geared toward negotiations,” the FBI wrote in the classified analysis, obtained by The Washington Post. The unit concluded that any alternatives the government could offer Bundy might reduce the rancher’s stress and “in turn, reduce the risk of a violent act.”
wrongdoing following a complaint that he redrew the boundaries of a national monument in Utah to benefit a former state lawmaker and political ally.
The Interior Department’s office of inspector general says it found no evidence that Zinke gave former state Rep. Mike Noel preferential treatment in shrinking the boundaries of Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
Idaho Lt. Gov. Brad Little told a congressional committee Thursday that livestock grazing on Western public lands provides a host of benefits to American taxpayers.
Chief among those, he said, is the rapid initial attack ranchers make on burgeoning wildfires, which helps keep them to a manageable size.
“That saves you (the federal government) an enormous amount of money,” Little told the House Natural Resource Committee’s federal lands subcommittee, which held a 90-minute hearing on “the essential role of livestock grazing on federal lands and its importance to rural America.”
The usual suspects are at it again, filing a federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia demanding the court halt a plan by the Bureau of Land Management to remove all the feral horses in a 40-mile radius around Caliente.
The American Wild Horse Campaign, Western Watershed Project, The Cloud Foundation and a Beatty outdoor enthusiast are suing the BLM, saying it failed to adequately document and support its roundup decision, though what would ever be adequate for them is difficult to say.
Some of the same plaintiffs brought a similar lawsuit in 2011 over a planned removal of wild horses from Jakes Wash west of Ely, but the suit was mooted when the BLM backed down rather fight the matter.
In 2009 there were only 270 wild horses in the 900,000-acre Caliente area, but a year ago there were more than 1,700, a number the BLM deems unsustainable.
BURNS — Three-and-a-half hours after pardoned Oregon rancher Dwight Hammond Jr. arrived home, he gathered with his wife and sons around his dining room’s large circular table and got back to business.
They hooked him into a live feed of an auction in Nevada where Hammond Ranch Inc.’s 155 calves were on the block.
Hammond could have called in to participate in the annual sale but he held back, not wanting to jerk the reins from his daughter-in-law and others who have run the family’s cattle ranch while he and his son Steven served arson sentences in federal prison.
“We’ve had to trust them. No use to question their judgment now,” the 76-year-old said later, sitting in his living room, back in his trademark Wrangler jeans, brown cowboy boots and a blue button-down shirt that matched his eyes.
Senator Lee is spearheading efforts in Congress to abolish increasingly militaristic and trigger-happy federal law enforcement offices. The Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Office of Law Enforcement Services (OLES) is particularly odious, and many believe, has blood on its hands. From the tragic and absurd waste of life and resources Operation Cerberus Action in Utah to the Bundy Ranch raid, to shooting last week of an unarmed couple off-roading in California, BLM law enforcement is beginning to look like a frightening combination of Stasi and the Keystone Kops. That’s not mere hyperbole. Because federal OLES agents enjoy the protections of civil service status, not to mention large, insular bureaucracies to shield them from accountability, there is a seething culture within these organizations of corruption and lawlessness.
Recently the Wall Street Journal carried a front-page feature by Jim Carlton highlighting my family, the Hages. It attempted to cover the plight of western ranchers and our 40-year David-and-Goliath struggle to prevent the federal government from taking our ranch without just compensation through government threats, intimidation, prosecution, and abuse of discretion.
Pine Creek Ranch is now in foreclosure. We have won enormous landmark victories for western ranchers in multiple bench trials, including a $14 million judgment against the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and – in a separate court – a ruling that the government had engaged in a conspiracy beginning in the 1970s to take our vested water rights and grazing preferences. However, on appeal, the federal courts twisted themselves into a legal pretzel to rule in favor of the government, finally taking our ranch judicially.
Larry Wooten wrote that misconduct by now-fired Special Agent in Charge Dan Love and other supervisors caused “considerable disruption in our workplace, was discriminatory, harassing and showed clear prejudice against the defendants, their supporters and Mormons.”
Wooten’s memo went on to describe how he heard repeatedly that Love had a “Kill Book,” as a trophy and “in essence bragged about getting three individuals in Utah to commit suicide (see Operation Cerberus Action out of Blanding, Utah and the death of Dr. (James) Redd).”
Lee points to the 2009 Blanding raid involving Redd — who killed himself — as an example of BLM law enforcement gone amok, with multiple pre-dawn raids served at gunpoint.
“What happened in Blanding is a symptom of the underlying problem,” he said.
The so-called “Kill Book,” he added, is “abhorrent. This is the kind of thing that could have or would have been addressed more quickly with a state or local law enforcement agency.”
Lee said local law enforcement can carry out the same functions of BLM and the Forest Service and are more accountable to local residents.
At a glance: Unlike the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service is not directed by the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1972 to maintain a population of burros.
Death Valley National Park’s 2002 General Management Plan, which went through extensive public review, calls for removing all burros from the park to protect water quality, riparian ecosystems, native plants, and native animals.
Burro populations have increased greatly in recent years. The last burro roundup in Death Valley National Park was in 2005.
Source: Death Valley National Park
The Bureau of Land Management revealed today it is contemplating an overhaul of its law enforcement program — from the location of its headquarters to whether rangers should wear visible flak jackets.
Deputy Director Brian Steed discussed the pending modifications in testimony before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests and Mining.
“We’re quite active right now in reviewing all policies regarding our law enforcement,” Steed told Utah Sen. Mike Lee (R). An outspoken critic of BLM law enforcement, Lee has endorsed dissolving the agency’s police force and instead relying on local officers or FBI agents.
Steed provided few details about the potential reorganization — which comes as Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is contemplating a broader overhaul of the entire department, as well as a potential relocation of BLM headquarters to a Western state.
Steed testified that BLM officials are evaluating whether the agency’s law enforcement “should be restructured to better fit organizational needs.”
“We absolutely are trying to increase our accountability to the American people by having the right personnel at the helms. We’re absolutely trying to change policy to make sure that we’re as accountable and responsive and as good at our job as possible,” Steed said at the hearing.
He noted that BLM has directed its officers to focus on “casework with direct ties to public lands,” including cross-border smuggling activities and the theft of mineral materials and historical objects.
DISMISSAL IS CONSIDERED an extreme remedy for prosecutor misconduct. Judges often declare a mistrial but let the indictments stand, thus allowing prosecutors the option of taking the case before another grand jury.
As Myhre noted in his brief, the Chapman case seems to be the only ruling in which the 9th Circuit has ever upheld outright dismissal of indictments due to prosecutorial misconduct. And Navarro found plenty of similarities when comparing Damm’s misconduct in Chapman to Myhre’s actions in the Bundy trial.
As in Chapman, Myhre and his office failed to turn over hundreds of pages of evidence, particularly FBI reports, logs, maps, and threat assessments, Navarro found. And, like Damm, Myhre and his office made “several misrepresentations” to the defense and the court, both about the existence of certain evidence and its importance, she ruled.
In one instance, Navarro said, the prosecution made “a deliberate attempt to mislead and to obscure the truth.” At the mistrial hearing in December, she criticized Myhre for calling an internal affairs report about one of the Bundy investigators an “urban legend.” When the report surfaced, Myhre told the court his “urban legend” comment was “based on the government’s inability to verify its existence, let alone find it,” and not an attempt to deceive.