I’m posting this for the historical records (source).
I am in direct, daily contact with a close friend who has lived and worked in Burns his entire life – except for a short stint with the 101st. He has worked in the woods (timber faller) on ranches (cowboy), and as a gunsmith in a local gunstore. Some of the Oregon, Washington, and Idaho guys (and at least one Georgian) have met him. Solid dude who, like many of us, is trying to balance family and work obligations with a deep and abiding love for the land he grew up on, the country he remembers, and the Constitution that protects it.
Here’s the background. I’ll start by saying that I put *some* of this up a few weeks ago when I asked the members here to sign a petition asking the Sheriff of Harney county to *not* arrest or transport the Hammonds to prison. I got some (minor) flak because some members here pointed out that there were other (past) charges against the Hammonds, and that it sounded like they were their own wort enemy. Here, then, is the history of actions by the government and by the Hammonds as it is available publicly. I took much of this from The Conservative Treehouse.com, which is associated with the Breitbart news site. They, in turn, took much of this from the Oregonian (libtard Portland paper) and from The Capital Press (much more ag-centered, small paper iirc)…
Warning: This is long. If it hurts you to read for ten minutes, then you are probably too weak and/or stupid to be involved with making comments about serious issues. Please go to another topic somewhere else on the board.
1. The Harney Basin (were the Hammond ranch is established) was settled in the 1870’s. The valley was settled by multiple ranchers and was known to have run over 300,000 head of cattle. These ranchers developed a state of the art irrigated system to water the meadows, and it soon became a favorite stopping place for migrating birds on their annual trek north
2. In 1908 President Theodor Roosevelt, in a political scheme, create an “Indian reservation” around the Malheur, Mud & Harney Lakes and declared it “as a preserve and breeding ground for native birds”. Later this “Indian reservation” (without Indians) became the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge (note: the Federal government could *make* an Indian Reservation – but they couldn’t *make* a “preserve” for birds – so this was a fabrication from the beginning…)
3. In 1964 the Hammonds purchased their ranch in the Harney Basin. The purchase included approximately 6000 acres of private property, 4 grazing rights on public land, a small ranch house and 3 water rights. The ranch is around 53 miles South of Burns, Oregon (note: to this day you can buy land out in this desolate place for about $1,000/acre – so in 1964 this was an affordable ranch purchased by working people – not some millionaire ranch deal. Not that that should matter…)
4. By the 1970’s nearly all the ranches adjacent to the Blitzen Valley were purchased by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and added to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge covers over 187,000 acres and stretches over 45 miles long and 37 miles wide. The expansion of the refuge grew and surrounds the Hammond’s ranch. Being approached many times by the FWS, the Hammonds refused to sell. Other ranchers also choose not to sell
5. During the 1970’s the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), in conjunction with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), took a different approach to get the ranchers to sell. Ranchers were told that, “grazing was detrimental to wildlife and must be reduced”. 32 out of 53 permits were revoked and many ranchers were forced to leave. Grazing fees were raised significantly for those who were allowed to remain. Refuge personnel took over the irrigation system claiming it as their own
6. By 1980 a conflict was well on its way over water allocations on the adjacent privately owned Silvies Plain. The FWS wanted to acquire the ranch lands on the Silvies Plain to add to their already vast holdings. Refuge personnel intentionally diverted the water (bypassing the vast meadowlands) and directed the water into the rising Malheur Lakes. Within a few short years the surface area of the lakes doubled. Thirty-one ranches on the Silvies plains were flooded. Homes, corrals, barns and graze-land were washed a way and destroyed. The ranchers that once fought to keep the FWS from taking their land, now broke and destroyed, begged the FWS to purchase their useless ranches. In 1989 the waters began to recede and now the once thriving privately owned Silvies plains are a proud part of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge claimed by the FWS
7. By the 1990’s the Hammonds were one of the very few ranchers that still owned private property adjacent to the refuge. In an effort to make sense of what was happening around her, Susie Hammond began compiling facts about the refuge. In a hidden public record she found a study that was done by the FWS in 1975. The study showed that the “no use” policies of the FWS on the refuge were causing the wildlife to leave the refuge and move to private property. The study showed that the private property adjacent to the Malheur Wildlife Refuge produced 4 times more ducks and geese than the refuge did. It also showed that the migrating birds were 13 times more likely to land on private property than on the refuge (note: when Susie brought this to the attention of the FWS and refuge personnel, she and her family became the subjects of a long train of abuses. See more on this later…)
8. In the early 1990’s the Hammonds filed on a livestock water source and obtained a deed for the water right from the State of Oregon. When the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) found out that the Hammonds obtained new water rights near the Malhuer Wildlife Refuge, they were agitated and became belligerent and vindictive towards the Hammonds. The US Fish and Wildlife Service challenged the Hammonds right to the water in an Oregon State Circuit Court. The court found that the Hammonds legally obtained rights to the water in accordance to State law and therefore the use of the water belongs to the Hammonds (note: thereafter, the Federal gov’t pressed Oregon to change its laws about citizens’ gaining access to water rights)
9. In August 1994 the BLM & FWS illegally began building a fence around the Hammonds water source. Owning the water rights and knowing that their cattle relied on that water source daily the Hammonds tried to stop the building of the fence. The BLM & FWS called the Harney County Sheriff department and had Dwight Hammond (Father) arrested and charged with “disturbing and interfering with” federal officials or federal contractors (two counts, each a felony). He spent one night in the Deschutes County Jail in Bend, and a second night behind bars in Portland before he was hauled before a federal magistrate and released without bail. A hearing on the charges was postponed and the federal judge never set another date (no need for Due Process, or any of that other stupid stuff…)
10. The FWS also began restricting access to upper pieces of the Hammond’s private property. In order to get to the upper part of the Hammond’s ranch they had to go on a road that went through the Malhuer Wildlife Refuge. The FWS began barricading the road and threatening the Hammonds if they drove through it. The Hammonds removed the barricades and gates and continued to use their right of access. The road was proven later to be owned by the County of Harney – which meant that the Hammonds could use the road, and that neither the BLM nor FWS could close said road. (note: you don’t think that this further enraged the BLM & FWS management, do you? Me either…)
11. Shortly after the road & water disputes, the BLM & FWS arbitrarily revoked the Hammond’s upper grazing permit without any given cause, court proceeding or court ruling. As a traditional “fence out state” Oregon requires no obligation on the part of an owner to keep his or her livestock within a fence or to maintain control over the movement of the livestock. The Hammonds intended to still use their private property for grazing. However, they were informed that a federal judge ruled, in a federal court, that the federal government did not have to observe the Oregon fence out law, which meant…
12. The Hammonds were forced to either build and maintain miles of fences or be restricted from the use of their private property. Cutting their ranch in almost half, they could not afford to fence the land, so the cattle were removed (note: you know DAMNED WELL that the BLM knew that’s what would happen…)
13. The Hammonds experienced many years of financial hardship due to the ranch being diminished. The Hammonds had to sale their ranch and home in order to purchase another property that had enough grass to feed their cattle. This property included two grazing rights on public land. Those were also arbitrarily revoked later (which was probably either random, or part of a management plan that had nothing to do with the Hammonds, right?)
14. The owner of the Hammond’s original ranch passed away from a heart attack and the Hammonds made a trade with his widow to get their original ranch back
15. In the early fall of 2001, Steven Hammond (Son) called the fire department, informing them that he was going to be performing a routine prescribed burn on their ranch. Later that day he started a prescribed fire on their private property. The fire went onto public land and burned 127 acres of grass. The Hammonds put the fire out themselves. There was no communication about the burn from the federal government to the Hammonds at that time (note: prescribed fires are a common method that both Native Americans and ranchers have used in the area to increase the health & productivity of the land for many centuries)
16. In 2006 a massive lightning storm started multiple fires that joined together inflaming the countryside. To prevent the fire from destroying their winter range and possibly their home, Steven Hammond (Son) started a backfire on their private property. The backfire was successful in putting out the lightning fires that had covered thousands of acres within a short period of time. The backfire saved much of the range and vegetation needed to feed the cattle through the winter. Steven’s mother, Susan Hammond said: “The backfire worked perfectly, it put out the fire, saved the range and possibly our home.”
17. The next day federal agents went to the Harney County Sheriff’s office and filled a police report making accusation against Dwight and Steven Hammond for starting the backfire. A few days after the backfire a Range-Con from the Burns District BLM office asked Steven if he would meet him in town (Frenchglen) for coffee. Steven accepted. When leaving he was arrested by the Harney County Sheriff Dave Glerup and BLM Ranger Orr. Sheriff Glerup then ordered him to go to the ranch and bring back his father. Both Dwight and Steven were booked and on multiple Oregon State charges. The Harney County District Attorney reviewed the accusation, evidence and charges, and determined that the accusations against Dwight & Steven Hammond did not warrant prosecution and dropped all the charges (Got that? “Dropped all charges”…)
18. In 2011 (5 years after the police report was taken), the U.S. Attorney Office accused Dwight and Steven Hammond of completely different charges, and accused them of being “Terrorists” under the Federal Antiterrorism Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996. This act carries a minimum sentence of five years in prison and a maximum sentence of death (note: for burning sage brush on their OWN property and the land that they have FEDERAL PERMITS TO MANAGE. Hello?)
19. In September 2006, Dwight & Susan Hammond’s home was raided. The agents informed the Hammonds that they were looking for evidence that would connect them to the fires. The Hammonds later found out that a boot print and a tire tracks were found near one of the many fires. No matching boots or tires were found in the Hammonds home or on their property
20. During the trial proceedings, Federal Court Judge Michael Hogan did not allow time for certain testimonies and evidence into the trail that would exonerate the Hammonds. Federal prosecuting attorney, Frank Papagni, was given full access for 6 days. He had ample time to use any evidence or testimony that strengthened the demonization of the Hammonds. The Hammonds attorney was only allowed 1 day. Much of the facts about the fires, land and why the Hammonds acted the way they did was not allowed into the proceedings and was not heard by the jury. For example, Judge Hogan did not allow time for the jury to hear or review certified scientific findings that the fires improved the health and productivity of the land. Or, that the Hammonds had been subject to vindictive behavior by multiple federal agencies for years
21. Federal attorneys, Frank Papagni, hunted down a witness that was not mentally capable to be a credible witness. Dusty Hammond (grandson and nephew) testified that Steven told him to start a fire. He was 13 at the time and 24 when he testified (11 years later). At 24 Dusty had been suffering with mental problems for many years. He had estranged his family including his mother. Judge Hogan noted that Dusty’s memories as a 13-year-old boy were not clear or credible. He allowed the prosecution to continually use Dusty’s testimony anyway (good jurisprudence, no doubt…)
22. Judge Michael Hogan & Prosecutor Frank Papagni tampered with the jury many times throughout the proceedings, including during the selection process. Hogan & Papagni only allowed people on the jury who did not understand the customs and culture of the ranchers or how the land is used and cared for in the Diamond Valley. All of the jurors had to drive back and forth to Pendleton everyday. Some drove more than two hours each way. By day 8 they were exhausted and expressed desires to be home.
On the final day, Judge Hogan kept pushing them to make a verdict. Several times during deliberation, Judge Hogan pushed them to make a decision. Judge Hogan also would not allow the jury to hear what punishment could be imposed upon an individual that has convicted as a terrorist under the 1996 act. The jury, not understanding the customs and cultures of the area, influenced by the prosecutors for 6 straight days, very exhausted, pushed for a verdict by the judge, unaware of the ramification of convicting someone as a terrorist, made a verdict and went home
23. June 22, 2012, Dwight and Steven were found guilty of starting both the 2001 and the 2006 fires by the jury. However, the federal courts convicted them both as “Terrorists” under the 1996 Antiterrorism Act. Judge Hogan sentenced Dwight (Father) to 3 months in prison and Steven (son) to 12 months in federal prison. They were also stipulated to pay $400,000 to the BLM. Hogan overruling the minimum terrorist sentence, commenting that if the full five years were required it would be a violation of the 8th amendment (cruel and unusual punishment). The day of the sentencing Judge Hogan retired as a federal judge. In his honor the staff served chocolate cake in the courtroom Hell Yeah!! FTW!!!
24. On January 4,, 2013, Dwight and Steven reported to prison. They fulfilled their sentences, (Dwight 3 months, Steven 12 months). Dwight was released in March 2013 and Steven, January 2014
25. Sometime in June 2014, Rhonda Karges, Field Manager for the BLM, and her husband Chad Karges, Refuge Manager for the Malheur Wildlife Refuge (which surrounds the Hammond ranch), along with attorney Frank Papagni exemplifying further vindictive behavior by filing an appeal with the 9th District Federal Court seeking Dwight’s and Steven’s return to federal prison for the entire 5 years (note: Rhonda Karges – Resource Field Manager for the BLM is the wife of Chad Karges Refuge Manager for the Malheur Wildlife refuge.
Rhonda specifically deals with all the BLM issues relating to the area in and around Hammonds property including “grazing denial”. Her husband just happens to be the person in charge of all the issues surrounding the Hammonds ranch such as “water and access”)
26. In October 2015, the 9th District Court “resentenced” Dwight and Steven, requiring them to return to prison for several more years. Steven (46) has a wife and 3 children. Dwight (74) will leave Susan (74) to be alone after 55 years of marriage. If he survives, he will be 79 when he is released
27. During the court preceding the Hammonds were forced to grant the BLM first right of refusal. If the Hammonds ever sold their ranch they would have to sell it to the BLM. (note: Hello?! Do I have to make a “note” here? Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Over?!?!?)