For Immediate Release
January 19, 2021
Erik Molvar, Executive Director, Western Watersheds Project, (307) 399-7910, firstname.lastname@example.org
BURNS, Ore. – Outgoing Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt today used his last moments of authority to issue grazing permits to Hammond Ranches, Inc., the same permit that had been revoked by Oregon Bureau of Land Management in 2014. Dwight and Steven Hammond were imprisoned in 2016 for setting fire to federal public lands to remove native trees and shrubs to increase livestock forage. Both were released from prison three years into five-year sentences by a pardon from President Trump in 2018.
“It is outrageous – although sadly predictable – that the Trump administration has reached down into the Burns Field Office of the Bureau of Land Management and seized control to make sure they could give the Hammonds preferential access to public lands,” said Paul Ruprecht of Western Watersheds Project. “It’s clear that the Bureau of Land Management was told by on high to get this done before the Trump Administration leaves tomorrow. It’s corruption, down to the fact that they raced through the weekend to get this rubber-stamped before the inauguration.”
The grazing permit governs the leasing of more than 26,000 acres of public lands neighboring Malheur National Wildlife Refuge for cattle grazing, on the Mud Creek, Hammond, Hammond FFR, and Hardie Summer allotments, including portions of the Bridge Creek Wilderness Study Area.
“These lands had only begun to recover after the Hammonds’ cattle were removed in 2014, and the sage grouse habitats and trout streams have yet to be fully restored from the damage,” said Ruprecht. “The rush to get the Hammonds back onto public lands puts politics before land stewardship.”
In order to rubber-stamp today’s preordained decision, the Bureau had to review dozens of protests from the public and ignore the evidence that Hammond Ranches, Inc. overused the allotments during their temporary operations in 2019.
“These particular ranchers have a long and contentious history of flouting grazing regulations, and their permit was revoked for those violations ,” said Ruprecht. “The limited grazing allowed in 2019 failed to change their noncompliance, so clearly the agency has no legal basis to conclude that the Hammonds qualify for a new permit
The grazing permit was also illegally re-issued by Secretary Ryan Zinke on his last day in office, January 2, 2019, in a decision overturned by a federal judge in December 2019.