Trump pardons Hammonds

Dwight (left) and Steven (right) Hammond have been pardoned by President Donald Trump after serving a combined seven years in prison. The pair were charged under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act and found guilty in 2012. Though the convictions came with mandatory minimum sentences of five years in prison, they received shorter sentences because the required five years would “shock the conscience,” according to the original judge. The pair were sent back to prison in 2016 after the government appealed the original sentence. They returned home on July 11.

The Hammonds are back in the spotlight again after a trio of environmental advocacy groups temporarily succeeded in blocking the renewal of the family’s grazing permits.

On May 13, the Western Watersheds Project, Center for Biological Diversity, and Wildearth Guardians filed suit against the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Secretary of the Interior. The groups contested the reinstatement of the Hammond family’s grazing permit renewals.

A U.S. District Court judge ruled on June 5 to grant the plaintiffs a temporary restraining order against the Hammond family’s grazing permits. The family will be unable to turn out cattle on two of their grazing allotments for 28 days. A hearing for the plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary injunction will be held on June 28 in Portland, OR.

A brief recap

Dwight and Steven Hammond, father-son cattle ranchers, had previously served out partial prison sentences in 2012 after being convicted of arson on their public land allotments. After being released early, a later judge ruled they must return to complete their five-year sentences, which they did in early 2016. President Donald Trump then pardoned the two from completing their sentences in the summer of 2018.

On his final day in office Jan 2, 2019, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke restored four of the Hammonds’ grazing allotments saying, “The Hammonds’ continuance of grazing will depend on compliance with BLM’s grazing regulations.” The BLM stated on February 5 that the agency had “conducted standards and guidelines assessments and evaluations in 2018 on the four allotments, standards were being achieved except the standard relating to species, the failure of that standard was not caused by grazing, and thus the permit qualified for a [categorical exclusion.]”

However, in the lawsuit filed in mid-May against Secretary Zinke and the BLM, the plaintiffs’ argued that grazing on two of the Hammonds’ allotments is “likely to cause harm to Greater Sage-Brush habitat and status” as well as harm from the alleged violation of the National Environmental Policy Act. — Anna Miller, WLJ editor

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