Thursday, February 11, 2016

Hammond Family: Ranchers or Terrorists?

...When the Fish and Wildlife Service diverted water to create a wetland that forced out the lower ranchers, the Hammonds legally reinforced their claim they had to those water rights. When there was an attempt to withdraw Steen Mountains as a “Monument”, the Hammonds refused to sell. When the federal land agencies in collusion with the environmentalists attacked ranching for destroying the health of the land, the Hammonds built a file comparing wildlife numbers on livestock land verses the areas actively managed by the bureaucrats. Even more threatening was the success for legally defending their water rights in court when the agencies attempted to fence off access to a vital spring. In a county full of people very close to being regulated out of business, a property rights win against the aggressive tactics of the federal agencies indeed does become a threat. What transpired next was the BLM making a case to put away the Hammonds for good. The many years of regulatory cut backs in grazing and then subsequent years of building excessive dry fuel ready to catch fire became a perfect storm. In a video from 2015, there is an example of ranchers in the surrounding area who watch as their cattle and homesteads are burned out. (see video link at end of article) Fire is nothing to mess with in the high winds that constantly blow across the desert. Like in 2006, the ranchers had submitted to cutbacks and followed BLM management plans. They were now in danger of being burned out of business. The Hammonds took action. During a major wildfire, they started a controlled back fire, a common and legal practice used in ranching to save the major part of their feed and put the fire out. It worked. By this time their file with the BLM was thick. Bureaucrat after bureaucrat had made claim that the Hammonds were dangerous, threatened violence, and were aggressively hostile. Since again, all these federal employees have immunity from making false allegations. This file is very suspect. But the allegations were enough to an uninformed jury and were entered into evidence by a US Attorney in a Federal District Court, away from neighbors and friends who could testify to their falseness. The BLM had the Hammonds arrested and charged with 18 counts of arson. They used every instance they could find of the Hammonds using controlled burns to help maintain the land, a common practice among ranching for centuries and accepted, to characterize them as dangerous arsonists. The allegations were filled with criminal intent. They were enough to create the appearance that it was not common practice to start back fires on private land. In fact, it is not even illegal if the fires get away from you. In these same years the BLM and Forest Service had burned thousands of acres, the Hammonds, 140. This is the desert, not suburbia; this is ranching, where the rancher is financially motivated to protect the land he uses, pays his taxes on, and makes his living on. What is worse is how they were charged. It is troubling that a US Attorney out of the Department of Justice felt that prosecuting them on a Domestic Terrorism Law was appropriate. It is troubling that the judge in the case retired the day after Steve and Dwight were plead down to only two counts. It is troubling that despite that same judge being so moved to reduce the mandatory 5 year minimum on the grounds that the 8th Amendment protects against cruel and unusual punishment, that a vindictive bureaucrat could find another US Attorney to appeal to another judge and send them back to prison. It is troubling that they were due to pay $400,000 in fines by the end of 2016 and that part of their deal, if that payment isn’t made, will involve giving the government first right of refusal if they ever have to sell the ranch...more

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