Groups comment on Trump pardons of Oregon ranchers
July 11, 2018
President Donald Trump on July 10 signed full pardons for Dwight Lincoln Hammond Jr., and his son, Steven Hammond, multi-generation cattle ranchers in Oregon who were imprisoned on arson charges that they set fires that spread to neighboring public grazing land.
"The evidence at trial regarding the Hammonds' responsibility for the fire was conflicting, and the jury acquitted them on most of the charges," The White House noted in a statement.
The White House added, "At the Hammonds' original sentencing, the judge noted that they are respected in the community and that imposing the mandatory minimum five-year prison sentence would 'shock the conscience' and be 'grossly disproportionate to the severity' of their conduct."
"As a result, the judge imposed significantly lesser sentences," the White House noted. "The previous administration, however, filed an overzealous appeal that resulted in the Hammonds being sentenced to five years in prison. This was unjust.
"Dwight Hammond is now 76 years old and has served approximately three years in prison. Steven Hammond is 49 and has served approximately four years in prison. They have also paid $400,000 to the United States to settle a related civil suit.
"The Hammonds are devoted family men, respected contributors to their local community, and have widespread support from their neighbors, local law enforcement, and farmers and ranchers across the west. Justice is overdue for Dwight and Steven Hammond, both of whom are entirely deserving of these grants of executive clemency."
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American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said, "President Trump's pardon of Oregon ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond tells us there is still hope for justice in environmental law enforcement."
"The Hammonds were thrown into prison for nothing more than burning an invasive species that threatened their ranch — a standard ranching practice that is both lawful and widely accepted," Duvall said.
"The fire spread further than it should have, and consumed more than 100 acres of federal grazing land, but that hardly makes the Hammonds criminals. Pardoning them was the right thing to do, and we thank Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) for advocating so effectively for these men.
"Farm Bureau was shocked by the minimum five-year sentence the Hammonds faced. Even worse was the Justice Department's decision to use anti-terrorism laws to prosecute them. We could not be happier this ugly chapter in governmental overreach has come to an end."
Ethan Lane, executive director of the Public Lands Council and National Cattlemen's Beef Association Federal Lands, noted that the groups and Walden had advocated for the Hammonds and said, "We are extremely grateful to President Trump for granting a full pardon to Dwight and Steven Hammond."
"The Hammonds were forced to suffer from grave injustice for far too long, and the entire ranching community is relieved that they will be reunited with their families," Lane said. "No rancher undertaking normal agricultural practices should fear spending years in jail at the hands of the federal government."
But Backcountry Hunters & Anglers President and CEO Land Tawney said "Today's decision by the White House sends a message of tolerance for lawbreakers who would debase and diminish our public lands and waters."
"Steven Hammond's and Dwight Hammond's actions set into motion the 41-day occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by Utah rancher Cliven Bundy and his followers that challenged the very existence of the public estate. The repercussions of the Malheur occupation continue to affect us as a nation of public landowners.
"To pardon vs. commute the sentence sends the wrong message. Backcountry Hunters & Anglers condemns Dwight Hammond's and Steven Hammond's blatant disregard for laws that protect resources owned by all Americans.
"Backcountry Hunters & Anglers strongly rejects the views and actions of radicals who disrespect our government, our public lands and waters, and the citizens who own them.
"The Bundys and their comrades employed violence and lawlessness in an effort to steal from the American people. We are disappointed in the president's decision and urge the administration to reaffirm its support of our shared landscapes, the fish and wildlife that inhabit them, and the citizens who jointly own and access them."