By Jennifer Jenks
Burns Times-Herald

Late Friday night, June 22, a jury in Pendleton convicted Harney County ranchers Dwight Lincoln Hammond Jr., 70, and his son Steven Dwight Hammond, 43, both residents of Diamond, of committing arson on federal lands. U.S. District Judge Michael Hogan presided over the trial and will later schedule sentencing, likely to occur in September 2012. Both defendants face a five-year mandatory minimum prison sentence, a maximum fine of $250,000, and restitution.

The Hammonds were originally indicted on 19 counts by a grand jury in June 2010, but a superseding indictment filed last year reduced the counts to nine. The Hammonds pled not guilty to all charges. The trial was scheduled to take place in Eugene, but the location was later changed to Pendleton after the attorney for the Hammonds argued they would receive a fairer trial there.

The verdict came after a two-week trial and involved allegations that the Hammonds, owners of Hammond Ranches Inc., set a series of fires on lands managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), on which the Hammonds had grazing rights leased to them for their cattle operation. It was alleged that the Hammonds set the fires to reduce the growth of juniper trees and sagebrush, and accelerate the growth of rangeland grasses used for cattle feed.

“Fires intentionally set on public lands endanger firefighters and the public,” stated United States Attorney Amanda Marshall. “The verdict sends an important message to those who think that they are above the law. We applaud the jury in Pendleton for doing the right thing based upon the evidence presented.”

The jury convicted both of the Hammonds of using fire to destroy federal property for a 2001 arson known as the Hardie-Hammond Fire, located in the Steens Mountain Cooperative Management and Protection Area. These were federal lands that the Hammonds had grazing rights leased to them at the time by the BLM.

Steven Dwight Hammond was additionally convicted of a 2006 arson known as the Krumbo Butte Fire located in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and Steens Mountain Cooperative Management and Protection Area.
The jury acquitted, and the government dismissed, allegations that the Hammonds conspired and set two other fires in 2006.
“This verdict against BLM grazing permittees in Eastern Oregon brings justice and closure to a very long episode that started more than 10 years ago with landowners setting fires, putting BLM firefighters in harm’s way. The BLM cares deeply about the health and safety of our employees and will stand up for them when they are threatened or harmed,” said acting Oregon/Washington BLM State Director Mike Mottice.

The Hammonds declined to comment on the verdict.

The case was investigated by the BLM and prosecuted by assistant U.S. attorneys Frank Papagni and AnneMarie Sgarlata.

11 Responses to “Hammonds convicted in federal court”

  1. Balance Of Powers Says:

    The verdict sends an important message that goes right over the heads of sheeple everywhere- that a panel of agreeable patsies can be seated as a jury. Acting as agents for the prosecution, abiding instructions from a judge, casting their vote effectively and without conscience.

  2. Gramthar Says:

    …proving there is such a thing as *karma*

  3. diane morgan Says:

    These are decent people that are stewarts of their land..they do not deserve the courts condemning them. To much government again putting their weight again est the working people.
    Who will benefit from putting them out of business and off their ranch ?
    The BLM is not always the last word.
    Reasonable fines, if any, and let them get on with their lives…they DO NOT deserve any federal prison.

  4. Get'emgone Says:

    People make the mistake that ranchers are caring environmentalists. Naw, all they care about is fattening their wallets and bank accounts.

    Too much arrogance on the part of ranchers. They’ve been given so much by the government for so long that they think they own the public land that they’ve been allowed to graze and make a profit on for so long.

    Fact be told, it’s way past time to kick these hypocritical rednecks off the public dole and let the land return to a natural (cattle-free) state.

  5. Nathan Muilenburg Says:

    Tell me, how much revenue did it take for the BLM to fight those said fires? How many firefighters were actually in harms way? The BLM cannot manage every acre of land that falls under their jurisdiction. These ranchers were doing what the BLM should have been doing for years. Here in Central Oregon the BLM has finally removed head from ass and has begun to fall large swaths of junipers to reclaim the land and water. These men should serve no time for the acts that they committed. The BLM should have managed the lands better, period. These men should be bronzed for doing what the BLM couldnt do and for bringing in money to the local economy.
    And the statements from “Get’emgone”, you sir are and idiot. The land is their livelyhood and they manage it well, its a sustainable resource that they depend on to feed their stock.
    And Get’emgone, what is the lands natural state? Please explain, because I would like to burn your house down and turn the land on it to its….natural state.

  6. Michael Getty Says:

    The BLM and USF&WS have been conspiring against the Hammonds for decades. They both have wanted to take over Hammond’s private land and confiscate all of their Steens Mtn. property. The only way for them to succeed was to compile fake evidence and frame the Hammonds. Both the BLM and USF&WS have been contaminated with envirofascists like “Get’emgone” and deserve a good “house cleaning.” (Fire them all and start over). Today’s bureaucrats know nothing about land management. Ranchers like the Hammonds, do. I pray that they are successful in their appeal. Anarchy, by definition, is leftist.

  7. Michael Getty Says:

    P.S. Hey, “Get’emgone.” If you don’t have the guts to use your own name then keep your anarchist comments to yourself.

  8. bear bait Says:

    Exactly what is it when the Feds don’t fight a fire under their “fire for resource use” self mandate? Arson? If it burns your private land, can you get the US Attorney to litigate on behalf of the private sector? No. And, if a fire starts on private land, burns Federal Land, they can sue you for unlimited damages. Yes!!! There are three teams of US Attorneys, one in Sacramento, one in Salt Lake City, and one in Los Angeles who do nothing but sue private land owners. They got $102,000,000 from the UPRR for a fire in the Feather River canyon started by a broken rail repair gang. The US got paid for “loss of grandeur of the landscape.” And for timber values in a Wilderness, where the logs can NEVER have timber or log value. Logs that they can burn with impunity, and do as witnessed in the Egley Fire. Can you sue the Feds over losses due to their fire negligence? Sure. The tort limit is what, $250,000? The only person who would get anything out of it would be the plaintiff’s attorney. The US Attorney got $14,000,000 from Pacific Gas and Electric because a tree fell in a wind storm on their lines and started a fire. The negligence was they PGE did not remove or examine all the trees that could fall over their lines. You can be sure that power line rights of way on Federal Land will be subject to a lot of tree cutting in the next decades. Or along rail rights of way.

    So the Hammonds are criminals, and the US is a beneficent and good steward of the land when they don’t fight fires by choice, and therefore directly manage to destroy public land, public wildlife, public vegetation, promote mass soil loss to the fire plume and to resulting erosion in rain and snow melt events off denuded ground, and cause the use of extraordinary resources and people to be used to fight the now runaway fire. No negligence of managers is litigated nor are they charged with Federal crimes. We now live in a country, this Fifth of July, of less freedom, of more government take over of private property rights, and certainly the vast waste of public resources that can’t be logged, even in salvage, nor can the roads be used due to management fiat. The tyranny of the urban majority , the vast wastage of the Federal Government, in lost food for wildlife (is there food enough now, really, for deer?), encouraged depredation by an over robust predator population, all of it could easily be reported and proven to be a vast mismanagement of public resources. Is that criminal? Of course not. The Government is protecting itself by administrative rule, and they are shielded by their own protective laws. I hope the vassals of Harney county enjoy their lives under the thumb of Washington DC, where the minions of the tax forgiven trusts and foundations of the environmental NGOs continue to drive insane land management and land use policies, and kill the natural resource industries that made the US a self supporting country, once. Now we are the junk disposal consumers for the Chinese economy, by their bidding. Our dysfunctional Congress does nothing, and the Feds are left to their own devices “because they are all good people.” Nobody said they are bad people. They are just working for the NGOs, not the voters, not the guy on the street, not the 95% who have 5% of the national wealth. NGOs have a life blood that is money, and that money comes from trusts and foundations that are tax forgiven. So, the Hammonds and the BLM are both being influenced and managed by untaxed money running a parallel government that is deeply influential to all things environmental and management of Federal Lands. The issue is total subjugation of the rural lands and land owners. Obama is part and parcel working to that end. The ruling Democrats are working to that end. This has become government, for government, by government, and paid for by taxation on the private sector devised to make government the only viable economic driver left in the country.

    So the next time you see the BLM or the USFS announcing “the fire is being allowed to burn for resource use”, get scared. With all the fire ongoing on the fuel laden public lands, they are out of fire fighting resources, and will increasingly opt to let fires burn under the guise of “resource use.” All the while the Hammonds are in prison for the very same response with different means. Ranchers don’t burn their feed for drill. They burn to increase the feed, to kill junipers to increase stream flows, and to lessen future fire danger. That the Feds won’t, and don’t, do timely and weather appropriate significant burning is because they evidently don’t have the skills that Native Americans held and used for tens of thousands of years. The Paiutes have been here for thousands of years. The BLM and USFS run their social engineers in and out every three or four years. No Federal managers have any investment in the local community under the current GSA personnel policies. They don’t have time enough to gain the empirical knowledge needed to be a competent manager. Occupiers. No more than temporary occupiers and then on to occupy another seat, in another state. Once, they were called “carpetbaggers.” Probably still appropriate. So you wonder if the Hammonds will get more time, and a harsher sentence than the EarthFirst fire bombers who destroyed private property, university buildings, long term cottonwood experiments, ruined mink farmers? Probably. Even in criminal sentencing, the rebels of the left get better treatment than the rebels of the right. Just how “democracy” is adjudicated in Oregon, today.

  9. Stephanie Lippert Says:

    Aww yes the poor Hammonds, finally got something they deserved. Born and raised in Harney County and haven’t met a rancher yet that didn’t think they were above the law. I also love it when it is touted time and time and tired time again about less government. Really?! Ranchers/farmers crying out less government?! Should probably research your subsidies just a scoch closer. (Scoch…adjective..means a little bit, you can find it in what we call dictionaries). Yes Harney County, you are correct it is ALL Obama’s fault, I mean what is this uppity Ni…oh wait, you don’t say that in public right? Just bigotry in private for y’all? I mean the man is sooooo obviously Muslim AND he supports gays AND women?!! GASP! He should just go and support the already EQUAL and well to do like a good “whipping boy” right?

  10. Michael Getty Says:

    Stephanie Lippert: Your comments aren’t even related to the subject. You act like some kind of campaign manager for the worst White House occupant this country has ever seen. Find some other site to sing your praise to The One. By the way, he doesn’t support anyone – he uses them to stay in power. You are nothing but a pawn to him (pawn, noun, one that can be used to further the purposes of another). You must be a liberal. Liberals are incapable of debating the issue. They always try to change the subject. Your effort failed. Your comments expose your complete ignorance of the issue and agriculture.

    By the way, the champions of farm subsidies are liberals, aka democrats. Yes, your party!

  11. Jeff Says:

    I don’t doubt that the federal government sometimes mismanages land. What the Hammonds did wrong was to burn public (federally owned land – land owned by all of us) without authorization. Did that improve the land? I don’t know, but people can’t just set fires – which are dangerous and expensive to fight – anywhere they want. The Hammonds were arrogant, and likely still are, in behaving as though they exclusively owned the public land. There motive was more than improving the land for grazing. That is best seen by the fact that they set a fire to drive away deer hunters on public land. They should pay the maximum fine

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