SALEM– Cattle producers can apply to compete for access to federal grazing allotments that Oregon’s Hammond Ranches lost in a court decision.
If Hammond Ranches decides to continue with an administrative challenge against the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, however, those applications will be put on hold, the Capital Press reported.
Ranchers have until April 14 to apply to graze livestock on the four allotments, which include about 41 square miles, while Hammond Ranches must decide by that time whether to appeal or apply for a new grazing permit.
Steven Hammond, co-owner of the ranch in the high desert of eastern Oregon, said he’s undecided about which procedural action to take and will consult with his lawyer to “try to understand how much more complicated this process is going to get.”
Hammond and his father, Dwight, are well-known in the ranching community for their legal battles with the federal government and environmental groups.
They were convicted of arson for setting fire to range land and sent to prison in 2012. The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 called for mandatory five-year sentences for the convictions.
But U.S. District Judge Michael R. Hogan said such a lengthy sentence “would not meet any idea I have of justice, proportionality” and instead sentenced Dwight Hammond to three months in prison and Steven Hammond to a year and one day. In October 2015, a federal appeals court ordered them to be resentenced to the mandatory prison time.
Demonstrations against the federal government erupted when the Hammonds returned to prison in 2016, leading to a 41-day occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. One protestor was killed and others were arrested.
President Donald Trump pardoned the Hammonds in 2018, and the BLM restored their access to federal grazing allotments last year. That decision was overturned by a judge because of a lawsuit in which several environmental groups opposed the restoration of their grazing permits.
The Oregon Cattlemen’s Association is “fully supportive” of the Hammond family and would prefer that other cattlemen not compete for the grazing allotments, said Jerome Rosa, the group’s executive director.
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