SALEM, OREGON, October 7, 2015 –
Statement by Oregon Farm Bureau President Barry Bushue on sentencing of Steve and Dwight Hammond:
“Today two Oregon ranchers were sentenced to five years in federal prison under terrorism statutes for setting preventative fires on their own land. We are gravely disappointed at this outcome.
“Elderly Harney County rancher Dwight Hammond and his son, Steven, a former OFB Board member and Harney County Farm Bureau president, have already served time in federal prison for their mistakes and paid their debt to society for the less-than-140 acres of BLM land that was accidentally impacted by the fires.
“This is an example of gross government overreach, and the public should be outraged.
“Today’s verdict is also hypocritical given BLM’s own harm to public and private grazing lands, which goes without consequence. It is unjust. OFB worked on this case quietly behind the scenes with BLM through the spring and summer. That diligent diplomatic effort was fruitless.
“This prosecution will have a chilling effect across the West among ranchers, foresters, and others who rely on federal allotments and permits. It will harm the positive relationship many ranchers and organizations have worked to forge with the BLM, and undermine the cooperative spirit most ranchers have brought to the bureau in helping the health of the range.
“Please join Farm Bureau and declare your support for Steve and Dwight Hammond. Join over 2,600 other citizens from across the country and show BLM that this extreme abuse of power will not go unnoticed and is shameful. Sign the petition at www.savethehammonds.com. This must never happen again.
“OFB will continue to work to bring public and policymaker attention to this case.”
Comment from federal attorney Billy Williams:
“We all know the devastating effects that are caused by wildfires. Fires intentionally and illegally set on public lands, even those in a remote area, threaten property and residents and endanger firefighters called to battle the blaze” stated Acting U.S. Attorney Billy Williams. “Congress sought to ensure that anyone who maliciously damages United States’ property by fire will serve at least 5 years in prison. These sentences are intended to be long enough to deter those like the Hammonds who disregard the law and place fire fighters and others in jeopardy.”
Oregon Farm Bureau President Barry Bushue’s response:
“BLM accused the Hammonds of endangering lives, but a jury found they did not. Saying they ‘intentionally’ set fire to public land or threatened lives is not what the jury concluded. Federal attorney Billy Williams is wrong in his overblown statements in court yesterday. But he has helped frame the debate as we start to look at BLM’s own actions. If Williams’ rhetoric is the standard, BLM will have a lot of explaining to do, far beyond what they’ve done in this case,” said OFB President Barry Bushue.
–Oregon Farm Bureau