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Scott Valley Protect Our Water will hold its regular meeting this Thursday, Aug. 27th at the Fort Jones Community Center in Fort Jones. Time is 7 p.m. Please bring a dessert to share as we eat before, during and after.
President Mike Adams will bring us up-to-date on several Scott Valley water issues. Siskiyou Co. Dist. 5 Supervisor Ray Haupt will be there to explain about the regulations that will affect private property and Conservation Easements now that there is a wolf pack in Siskiyou County. He was interviewed by the Sacramento Bee recently about the new “Shasta” wolf pack telling the reporter that it is “irresponsible” of the state to allow Canadian wolves in Siskiyou County. He is certainly up-to-speed on the subject.
Erin Ryan, from Congressman Doug LaMalfa’s staff, is also planning on attending and sharing the newest information. There should be quite the discussion on the final decision regarding USFS Westside Recovery Project from the deadly fires last summer in Siskiyou County. It looks like the recovery project won’t recover a darned thing!
On Friday night, Aug. 28th, two live bands will rock “The REC” in Fort Jones. Doors open at 5 p.m. with pizza and beer available. At 8 p.m. “B Side” will open for “Stonewash” and folks can dance until 11 p.m. Cost is $10 each.
Remember that Scott Valley’s first film festival will be Sept. 24 – 27. It kicks-off at The REC with short films from 1 to 5 p.m. Then at 7 p.m. “The Great Alone” will be shown with Alaskan Sleddog Iditerod Race Winner Lance Mackey appearing in person. Wow, pretty cool stuff. Check out the webpage for more info at: flixxfest.org
We froze eight more packages of corn last week. I recalled Sam Thackeray saying they cook their corn in an ice chest. No one answered the phone at their house, when I called for exact info – so, I asked “the web” and found instructions. We filled up our ice chest with the husked corn and poured in about two gallons of boiling water. Closed the lid and waited 30 minutes. Yep it was done! What a slick way to do that hot job. Picked more broccoli to blanch and freeze and the cucumbers have not slowed down, so been giving them away as fast as I can. The tomatoes are ripening faster and may start canning them this week.
The Associated Press reported the drought in California will cost the state agriculture economy over $1.84 billion in this year alone. This is information by researchers from U.C. Davis. There are several very sad portions in this report. One is the loss or fallowing of over 542,000 acres of farm land due to lack of water. It is just ridiculous to not have more water stored for droughts. Going nearly 50 years without improvement and an increase in reservoirs and water storage is plain stupid. And “yes” I am pointing to our confused Guv. Brown, who has fought water storage in all his years as governor. The second is the drought is hitting farm owners and farm workers costing more than 10,100 jobs to seasonal farm jobs.
In Northern Washington a wolf pack attacked and injured a sheep guard dog, recently. Don’t know how many sheep the pack killed. And in Oregon, the Mt. Emily wolf pack has been caught wounding two dogs and killing 13 sheep during the past two years. We can now look forward to problems with wolves like other states where the non-native Canadian wolf has been allowed to expand.
Among all the killing and attacks, the enviros have resurrected an old “dismissed” lawsuit to challenge USDA’s possible killing of predators that attack livestock and guard dogs. That is not good.
The comment period is now open on a proposed rule reevaluating the designation of “critical habitat” for the marbled murrelet by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The bird was listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act in 1992 and the designation of critical habitat has added to loss of timber harvests in California, Oregon and Washington. Currently, over $3.6 million acres have been set aside for specific marbled murrelet habitat within the three states. Yep, all for a little bird — curtailing any timber harvests.
Apparently, the new comment period is in response to litigation against the USFWS. I’ll be writing to say there is way too much acreage set aside for the bird and that the forests need to be thinned to provide healthier habitat for all wildlife – and not burn up!
The comment period begins today and runs for 60 days. You can mail your comments to:
Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS–R1–ES–2015–0070; Division of Policy, Performance, and Management Programs, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, MS: BPHC, 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041–3803.
Liz Bowen is a native of Siskiyou County and lives near Callahan. You can call her at 530-467-3515.
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SALT LAKE CITY — Less than three weeks before a scheduled sentencing, a federal judge has recused himself in the case against San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman for the ATV protest ride he organized and led in Recapture Canyon in May 2014.
U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby filed an order of recusal Friday, citing the appearance of a conflict of interest because of his close friendship with Steve Bloch, legal director of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.
The conservation organization had reportedly urged for Lyman to be prosecuted for his protest ride and joined other organizations in writing to the court to request a robust sentence against Lyman. Bloch also reportedly attended Lyman’s trial.
In May, a jury convicted Lyman and Monticello City Councilman Monte Wells of conspiring to operate off-road vehicles on public lands closed to off-road vehicles and operation of off-road vehicles on public lands closed to off-road vehicles.
The misdemeanor convictions could result in up to one year in prison, 12 months of probation and a $100,000 fine for both Lyman and Wells. Federal prosecutors have said they are pushing for both men to serve jail time.
Lyman filed a motion in July asking that Shelby be disqualified from the case. According to Lyman, Shelby should be removed from the trial because of his undisclosed friendship with Bloch. The motion argued Shelby made note of his relationship with Bloch in another set of cases but did not do the same in the case against Lyman.
Lyman said he didn’t know about the conflict of interest until after he was convicted.
“Bloch and his wife, Kara, are friends of mine and have been for a long, long time,” Lyman’s motion quotes Shelby as saying on the record in a status conference concerning the separate cases. “My wife and I have socialized with the two of them since that time, (and) we continue to socialize. My son is close friends with Steve’s son. They play on the same soccer team (and are) in the same school class.”
Shelby contended in his order of recusal that he didn’t know the extent of Bloch’s interest in the case until Lyman filed his motion.
“Until Mr. Lyman filed his disqualification motion, the court was unaware of any involvement in this proceeding by SUWA,” Shelby wrote.
Lyman also claims Shelby did not require the same stringent impartiality of himself as he did of jurors in the trial, each of whom were asked about their affiliation with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and other conservation organizations during the jury selection process.
Shelby countered in his order Friday that “it was the defendants (and not Shelby himself) who asked the court to inquire of potential jurors about their affiliation with conservation groups, including SUWA.”
Shelby further argued that the defendants’ request for such questioning during jury selection didn’t tip him off to his friend’s direct involvement in the proceedings against Lyman. He noted that Bloch is not listed as a party in the case.
Another judge was initially in charge of reviewing the merits of Lyman’s motion, but Shelby said he wanted to proactively recuse himself in light of his new understanding of his friend’s connection to the legal proceedings.
Lyman has also filed a motion for a new trial, claiming the Bureau of Land Management failed to properly show that the road running through Recapture Canyon is in fact protected as a public highway. He said that means he can’t be legally faulted for leading and riding with a group of protestors who were angry about the federal government’s designation of the land.
A rancher is taking the Environmental Protection Agency to federal court, asking a judge to stop the agency from fining him more than $16 million because he built a small pond on his property.
Andy Johnson of Fort Bridger, Wyoming says he made sure to get the proper permits from his state government before building the pond. After all, this is America in the 21st century, and nothing done on your own property — certainly when it involves the use of water — is beyond government concern.
Johnson is facing millions in fines from the federal government after the EPA determined his small pond — technically a “stock pond” to provide better access to water for animals on his ranch — is somehow violating the federal Clean Water Act.
“We went through all the hoops that the state of Wyoming required, and I’m proud of what we built,” Johnson said. “The EPA ignored all that.”
In a compliance order, the EPA told Johnson he had to return his property — under federal oversight — to conditions before the stock pond was built. When he refused to comply, the EPA tagged Johnson with a fines of $37,000 per day.
Dismantling the pond within the 30-day window the EPA originally gave him was “physically impossible,” Johnson said.
That was in 2012. Today, Johnson owes the federal government more than $16 million, and the amount is growing as he tries to fight back.
In a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court on Thursday, lawyers representing Johnson argue the EPA overstepped its authority by fining the rancher.
PNP comment: This just proves that the packs do expand quickly and they do eat livestock and can devastate wildlife populations. Of course, the wolf lovers spout the opposite lies and myths. — Editor Liz Bowen
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife says the Huckleberry wolfpack will be thinned if there’s one more depredation.
One more depredation by a troublesome pack in northeast Washington will lead to the lethal removal of wolves, a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife official said Friday.
Seriously injuring a sheep dog this month in Stevens County will count as a strike against the Huckleberry pack, which killed at least 26 sheep last summer belonging to the dog’s owner, rancher Dave Dashiell.
Donny Martorello, WDFW’s wolf policy coordinator, said Dashiell has tried everything possible — lights, alarms, dogs, fences and more human presence — to deter wolves.
“If we get a second depredation there will be a recognition that we have put those things on the landscape and that the depredations are continuing,” Martorello said.
Martorello and other WDFW officials outlined in a conference call with the department’s wolf advisory group non-lethal efforts to protect livestock from the Huckleberry pack, which has split into north and south groups.
The red line drawn by WDFW applies only to the north group, which was blamed for injuring the dog. If the south group attacks livestock or guard dogs, “I think we would take a pause and review everything we know,” Martorello said in an interview.
Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association President Justin Hedrick said WDFW was being too lenient, considering the pack’s record.
Because of last summer’s depredations, WDFW authorized shooting up to four wolves. One female wolf was killed before WDFW suspended the operation because the sheep were no longer in the pack’s territory.
“I don’t understand why there’s a reset button,” Hedrick said during the conference call. “Why would you wait for two (depredations) when this pack has already been eligible for lethal removal?”
Martorello said WDFW was trying to apply its policies in a case that pushed the department into new territory. WDFW generally will consider lethal removal after four depredations involving a pack. The Huckleberry pack has been involved in more than four depredations, but the incidents were separated by months.
Shawn Cantrell, Defenders of Wildlife’s Northwest director, said lethal removal may be the right move if there’s another depredation, but WDFW should have waited to make that decision.
“I would like them to allow for more flexibility. The circumstances are hard to predict,” he said. “I’m pleased the department is continuing to invest in non-lethal measures to prevent a second depredation. I think that’s what everybody wants.”
Dashiell estimated he lost more than 200 sheep to wolves last year. He said Friday that he’s lost about seven sheep this year, though WDFW has not confirmed any were killed by wolves. Three sheep were attacked by cougars, WDFW concluded.
Dashiell said he moved most of his sheep to a feedlot outside the county and is spending more than $10,000 a month on hay. The sheep dog was guarding a small flock near his house. He said he’s ready to sell his herd and that the area is heading toward becoming a wolf sanctuary without a livestock industry.
“I don’t want to be the first domino to fall, but that’s looking like how it is,” Dashiell said. “It’s just pretty ugly, is how it is.”
Elsewhere in Washington this summer, wolves in the Dirty Shirt pack, also in Stevens County, have killed three cows and one calf. The Teanaway pack in Kittitas County killed a yearling Angus.
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Two-year Sage Grouse Initiative Spans 11 Western States, Maintains Working Lands Approach to Conservation
WASHINGTON, Aug. 11, 2011 — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today $21.8 million in additional financial assistance to help eligible farmers and ranchers in Wyoming conserve critical Greater Sage-grouse habitat. Working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), conservation partners such as land trusts will help eligible ranchers permanently protect large working ranches, and the associated Greater Sage-grouse habitat. USDA’s support aims to keep farmers and ranchers in Wyoming working on their land, while maintaining the land’s economic viability. Over the past two years, USDA Natural Resources and Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Sage Grouse Initiative (SGI) has obligated $112 million in financial assistance to conserve sage-grouse in 11 states, including California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Nevada, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.
“Instead of trying to tackle all of the threats to sage-grouse in a massive land area, NRCS and its partners are prioritizing assistance in core areas of high sage-grouse abundance to ensure that enough of the right conservation practices are implemented in the right landscapes,” said Vilsack. “By proactively working with farmers and ranchers to ensure that sage-grouse flourish and are provided with habitats, we are keeping agricultural lands productive and enhancing the economies of Western states. Moreover, our conservation partners are demonstrating their commitment to SGI’s success by providing additional resources to help us with this effort.”
USDA and its partners will continue to evaluate and assess the effectiveness of applied conservation practices, quantify the resulting benefits, and provide a scientific basis for SGI improvements. Thus far, USDA has invested $94 million in the SGI in 2011 and $18 million in 2010. States are using a combination of programs to provide the financial and technical assistance required to implement the initiative, including the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP), Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP), Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP) and the Grassland Reserve Program (GRP). Please click on Sage Grouse Initiative to view a list of each state’s funding by program.
SGI works in part through easement programs like FRPP to provide matching funds to help purchase development rights to keep productive farm and ranchland in agricultural uses. Wyoming’s ranchers have shown unprecedented interest in enrolling acreage in FRPP to protect agricultural land on which the Greater sage-grouse depends to thrive. Working with USDA, conservation partners such as land trusts will use FRPP to help eligible ranchers permanently protect large working ranches, and the associated Greater Sage-grouse habitat. Wyoming will use the additional fiscal year 2011 funding for agreements with land trusts that will conserve nearly 38,000 acres in permanent easements on four large working ranches in Park and Sublette counties.
Examples of the types of conservation practices that NRCS and its partners are installing include: using sustainable grazing systems to improve hiding cover for birds, marking or moving “high risk” fences near breeding sites to reduce bird collisions, and removing invasive conifers from grasslands to allow re-colonization of otherwise suitable sage-grouse habitat. Previously, the SGI removed encroaching conifers from 40,000 acres of range lands in areas near high sage-grouse abundance, allowing birds to re-colonize otherwise suitable habitats.
Conservation partners are demonstrating their commitment to SGI’s success by providing additional resources to leverage the federal investment. In an unprecedented partnership with federal and state agencies, non-government organizations and private industry, USDA is investing $4 million and its partners an additional $2.25 million to increase technical assistance to help speed the implementation and success of the SGI. This $6.25 million investment will support 16 new technical positions that are hired and supervised by non-federal partners and housed in USDA service centers for up to three years. The employees will help eligible farmers and ranchers implement conservation practices that enhance sage-grouse habitat in priority landscapes.
In March 2010, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced that the greater sage-grouse biologically warrants protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). However, because of the need to address higher-priority species first, the FWS placed the sage-grouse on the candidate list for future action. SGI’s goal is to implement the right conservation practices in the right locations to preclude the need to list the species as threatened or endangered.
For more information about SGI, please visit Sage Grouse Initiative.
USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Ave., S.W., Washington, D.C. 20250-9410 or call (800) 795-3272 (voice) or (202-720-6382 (TDD).
Courtesy of Rich Beausoleil/WDFW The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission has affirmed its decision to allow more cougars to be hunted in regions occupied by wolves. Animal-rights and conservation groups had petitioned to reverse the decision.
Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission reaffirms decision to increase hunting of cougars in areas occupied by wolves.
Washington will increase cougar hunting in wolf territory as a sympathetic gesture to communities concerned about the increasing presence of predators, the Fish and Wildlife Commission confirmed Friday.
The commission voted 7-1 to reject a petition submitted by the Humane Society of the United States and several conservation groups challenging the stepped-up cougar hunts in about 29 percent of the state.
They argued that shooting cougars to shore up support for wolf recovery was a rash move by the commission. The groups asserted the policy was not subjected to public comment and likely to backfire by killing older cougars that keep juvenile males away from livestock and humans.
Commissioner Jay Kehne, an Omak resident who works for one of the petitioning groups, Conservation Northwest, agreed on most points. He said it was a “far stretch” to link cougar hunting with wolf recovery.
The rest of the commission stuck with its decision in April to increase harvest limits in 14 game units that overlap with wolf packs.
Commissioner Miranda Wecker, a Naselle resident, said Friday that the commission should defend its right to “tweak” harvest levels. She said in an earlier interview that the change was an empathetic signal to Eastern Washington residents unhappy with a growing wolf population. Wolves are a state-protected species and can’t be hunted.
Kehne said the public never got a chance to comment on the policy. He said public outreach focused on extending the cougar hunting season by one month. “There was no discussion of increasing (harvest) numbers in all of that process,” he said.
The move will change harvest limits statewide by about 25 cougars. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officials say the state has approximately 3,600 cougars and 163 were harvested in 2014.
WDFW biologists say it’s impossible to forecast exactly how many more cougars will be shot. Limits aren’t reached in most game units, and the department has the option of ending hunts early.
WDFW biologists had recommended keeping cougar harvest levels uniform throughout the state as the best way to provide a stable population and social structure. The recommendation was based on six studies conducted over 13 years by WDFW, Washington State University and the University of Washington, according to a staff report.
Although the April vote differed from the staff’s advice, WDFW officials Friday recommended that commissioners stick with their decision.
WDFW biologists say the increased hunting in wolf territory probably won’t lower the state’s overall population, but it may open up areas for juvenile males to roam.
There is no evidence that more attacks on livestock will follow, but young cougars are more likely to enter residential areas, according to the staff report.
The commission agreed to revisit the harvest levels in a year.
The big, big news is yesterday’s report of a psycho shooting two former coworkers on Live TV. This incident provoked the typical kneejerk reaction from the Kool Aid drinking Gun Control crowd shouting from the roof tops, “It’s the gun! It’s the gun!” This happens each time there is a high profile shooting murder.
So what can we take away from this recurring situation? I believe it demonstrates that there is mental problem previously unidentified. Let’s call it Gun Control Obsessive Thinking Disorder(GCOTD). Individuals can be said to be suffering this problem if they exhibit two or more of the following s ymptoms.
1. Verbalizing the 2nd Amendment is outdated and should no longer be in the Bill of Rights.
2. Irrational hatred and fear of Second Amendment groups like the NRA and Gun Owners of America.
3. Simplistic Thinking and Verbalization that banning guns will end violence.
4. Hypocritical Behavior including denouncing firearms while hiring armed guards to provide protection for themselves.
5. Ignoring all factual evidence which does not support their gun banning advocacy behavior while making up phony statistics to support their position.
6. Secretly owning firearms while denouncing the personal ownership of firearms.
7. Recoils at the sight of law abiding citizens carrying a firearm in Public in accordance with the Law.
8. Refusal to acknowledge that cities like Chicago which have the most restrictive gun laws also have extremely high gun violence incidents.
9. Thinks that high paid actors who star in movies including lots and lots of shooting are not hypocrites for advocating more gun control.
10. A fixation on a certain type of firearm as being particularly evil and that it should be banned.
11. Supports blathering idiotic foreigners like Piers Morgan who advocates for Gun Control in America.
12. Reacts with fear and loathing at the sight of an Armed Law Enforcement Officer during a traffic stop.
13. Sports A Black Lives Matter bumper sticker while verbalizing that all Police Officers are pigs who just want to shoot down innocent black people.
14. Unable to understand the difference between a Semi-Automatic Rifle and a Fully Automatic Machine Gun. Further believes that Machine Guns can be purchased by going to Craig’s List or at a local Flea Market.
15. Hates Responsible Gun Owner Sarah Palin, but thinks Gun Control Advocate Hillary Clinton is an honest person.
16. Believes that a object by itself is totally dangerous and causes the owner to go nuts shooting everyone possible.
17 . Gets extremely irate when another black criminal in the I nner City is s hot to death by police during the commission of a crime, but cares less when a 9 year old Inner City black child is killed by a stray bullet fired by a black criminal during a drive by shooting.
People with this Disorder need to be totally disarmed as they are obviously too nuts to be allowed the ownership of even a pocket knife. Persons with 5 or more of these symptoms should be assigned a personal representative to handle their financial affairs. Persons with 10 or more of these symptoms should be wearing a straight jacket in a padded room in an mental health treatment facility where they can received the help they need paid by ObamaCare.
In less than a week, President Obama and a massive team of White House officials will touch down at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER) for their first official visit to Alaska and the U.S. Arctic. With the rumor mill still churning, the only official word so far are stops in Anchorage, Seward, Dillingham and Kotzebue to discuss what the president has described as the greatest threat to national security – climate change. Some have called the visit historic – a moment to be celebrated and embraced – I, however, am far less optimistic, especially given the president’s recent track record in Alaska.
Over the past six-and-a-half-years, President Obama and his administration have aggressively pushed to make good on a 2008 campaign promise to “fundamentally change the United States of America.” Sadly, that attitude and mission has made a complete mockery out of the principals of federalism and the 10th Amendment. Their efforts continue to ignore states like Alaska that rely on our lands, waters and abundant natural resources to provide for our communities and local economies.
This administration’s aggressive top-down agenda has and continues to restrict economic growth and damage the ability for our people to provide for themselves. Their onslaught of federal rules and regulations – never passed by Congress or subject to legitimate public input by local communities – have managed to lock away millions of acres of public lands, halt responsible resource development and production on land and offshore, and taken Alaskan and American jobs off the table at a time when we need them most. There’s no question the long term impacts of these decisions will have a devastating effect on our state. So to say I’m skeptical of the president’s intentions is an understatement.
Since the president announced his travels to Alaska last month, my message has been clear: this visit must not be used as a platform to pander to the nation’s most extreme interests groups, but as an opportunity to see the many challenges and hurdles Alaskans face each and every day. With more than 80 percent of our communities off the road system, we face some of the most basic and fundamental obstacles: high energy and food costs, extreme poverty, drug and alcohol abuse, limited access to basic goods and services like medical care, Internet, and even running water. At a time when much of the nation has the luxury to sit back and discuss our problems, many Alaskans are living them. By using our state as a poster child for a reckless environmental agenda, the president fails to recognize the harsh realities facing numerous Alaskans.
As the only member of Congress from above the Arctic Circle, I have consistently fought for the real world needs of Alaska and the Arctic. With the help of the Congressional delegation, I have worked for new infrastructure and development projects in the region, including responsible resource extraction, deep water ports, navigational aids, and mapping of the sea floor. Through the creation of the Congressional Arctic Working Group and the Senate Arctic Caucus, we have made serious efforts to bring attention to the political realities of the region, particularly important as Russia expands its military footprint by reopening Soviet-era military bases and positioning four new combat brigades above the Arctic Circle. Even with the cynicism I share towards the president’s travel, I recently wrote the White House to encourage vocal support for a broad range of options to fund, develop and construct new icebreaker vessels – something we desperately need.
With the eyes of world upon us as the United States begins its two-year chairmanship of the Arctic Council, we must continue to push this Administration to lead on a wide range of Arctic issues and not simply the issues of climate change. Ultimately, this conversation must recognize the needs of people and include efforts to responsibly manage and develop our God given resources. Alaskans deserve an all of the above approach that supports traditional and alternative energy sources, not a systematic veto on specific industries and economic opportunity.
As Alaskans prepare for the President’s visit, we must do our best to remind him that we seek policies that empower our people and state, not the federal government. We are not just a fancy photo on a postcard or a green screen backdrop for the anti-resource development agenda; we are a unique and diverse people that rely upon our lands and our resources to survive. If this visit is simply a platform for the “we know best” environmental agenda, I suggest the President save the manpower, taxpayer resources, and countless gallons of jet fuel, and give that stump speech from somewhere else.
Rep. Don Young, a Republican, has served in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1973.
The views expressed here are the writer’s own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, e-mail commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com
Photo of a controlled burn taking place in Nevada. Photo courtesy of the Nevada BLM.
—Resentencing delayed to October
An eastern Oregon family with a long history in ranching is fighting to keep its cow/calf operation afloat against an onslaught of blows from the federal government. Two members of the Hammond family have been charged under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 for starting two range fires that ended up on federal land.
One of the fires, set in 2001, was a prescribed burn on Hammond’s private property; a routine rangeimprovement practice. The other fire, set on Hammond’s private property in 2006, was a back-burn intended to protect the ranch’s winter pasture from a lightening fire on adjacent federal land. Combined, the two fires burned about 140 acres of federal land. Now, although two Hammond family members have already done time in federal prison for setting these fires, they are facing a resentencing—now scheduled for late October—that could land them back in prison.
The Hammonds hold grazing rights on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land and own private grazing acres intermingled with BLM land in the Steens Mountains. For 45 years, the Hammonds have used their BLM grazing rights and private property to run a successful operation. But now, their operation is being threatened not only by criminal and civil charges brought by the federal government, but with the loss of their grazing permits, as well. The BLM has refused to renew their grazing permits for two years running.
Although the family has refrained from making a public splash, the story is slowly getting out. Court documents are beginning to circulate. Those documents paint a picture of a family that serves on the local school board, volunteers in community clubs and counsels, and donates time, money and meat each year to local youth organizations and senior groups. District Court Judge Michael Hogan, the federal judge who first saw their case, went on record calling the Hammonds “the salt of their community.”
Why did Hammonds start the fires? According to court documents, the 2001 “Hardie-Hammond” fire was set under a long-standing plan between Hammonds and their BLM range conservationist to burn off invasive species on that section. They had called the BLM at noon that day to see if burning was permitted. After being told there was no burn ban in effect, the Hammonds told the BLM that they would be setting a fire on that section.
The fire later spread to approximately 139 acres of public land, land that happened to be one of Hammond’s grazing allotments. The Hammonds presented evidence that the spread onto public land was not intentional. However, back in 1999, a similar scenario had occurred (a prescribed burn on their land spread to public land), and the Hammonds had been warned that they would face serious consequences should it happen again. As an aside, according to the BLM itself, the 2001 Hardie-Hammond fire had, in fact, “improved range conditions” on the public lands.
The 2006 “Krumbo Butte” fire was started by lightning on public land adjacent to Hammond’s private land, where they grow their winter feed. Hammonds set a backfire that successfully kept the Krumbo Butte fire from burning a large portion of their private land. Their backfire burned about one acre of federal land.
Years later, BLM pressed charges for the above-mentioned fires, citing endangerment of human lives and damage to federal property. However, the district court found that no one had been endangered by the fires, and that the fires had caused minimal damage. In fact, the court found, the fire had arguably increased the value of the land for grazing.
Original jail sentence
Dwight and Steven Hammond (father and son operators of the family ranch) admitted to having started the above fires. In determining the Hammonds’ sentences, Judge Hogan had decided that applying the “mandatory minimum” of five years cited in the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act would “shock the conscience…” He referenced the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, which states, “Excessive bail shall not be required…nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”
To call for five years’ imprisonment, he said, “would result in a sentence which is grossly disproportionate to the severity of the offenses here…” He said that Hammonds’ actions “could not have been conduct intended under [the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act]…” Judge Hogan used his discretion under the Eighth Amendment to sentence Dwight (now 74) to three months in prison, followed by three years’ “supervised release.” Dwight’s son Steven (45), father of three, was sentenced to one year and one day in prison—also to be followed by three years’ “supervised release.” The men served their sentences starting in 2013.
Their firearms were taken, as was Dwight’s pilot’s license.
Back to prison?
Not satisfied by Judge Hogan’s reasoning or sentencing decisions, the federal government is now coming back for more: It wants the men to serve at least five years’ time. The government appealed the judge’s decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and that court agreed that Judge Hogan’s ruling must be remanded back to another judge. The Hammonds appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court in hopes of overturning the Ninth Circuit decision, but their case was not taken up by the high court.
Thus, the case is now in the hands of Chief Judge of the District Court of Oregon, Judge Ann Aiken. She will decide whether to institute the five-year minimum or more. The resentencing hearing, once scheduled for July 9, has been delayed to late October 2015.
Meanwhile, on the civil side, a wholly separate civil case is being considered. The ranch is also paying $400,000 as part of a settlement agreement with BLM for the alleged costs of fighting fires for which BLM claims the Hammonds are responsible. If the Hammonds have to sell part of their ranch to make the payment, BLM managed (as part of the settlement agreement) to get first option to buy.
Meanwhile, due to BLM’s refusal to renew the family’s grazing permits, the Hammonds have had to find alternative feed for their cattle for large parts of the year, all while working to come up with the $400,000 settlement sum.
Hammonds own grazing preferences and hold an associated permit on the BLM land. What’s more, they own private property intermingled with the BLM land. This two-year denial of their grazing permits has preventing them from using their grazing rights and private land.
After a “45-year record of exemplary stewardship” on Hammonds’ part, the family’s counsel wrote, BLM’s refusal of permits is an act of “zeal,” an effort to “make an example of” the family. The Hammonds are currently appealing to get their permits reinstated.
“The public has an interest in maintaining and stabilizing the livestock operations that are dependent upon the public lands,” said the Hammonds’ appeal. “However, contrary to this interest, the… BLM Decision destabilizes [Hammonds’] current livestock operation which is dependent upon the public lands…” Watch for updates on both the criminal and civil aspects of the Hammond family’s story in future editions. — Theodora Johnson, WLJ Correspondent
PNP comment: Yep, hypocrisy reigns supreme in the U.S. govmunt! — Editor Liz Bowen
Wednesday, July 15, 2015
Northern Ag Network Note: These two articles have us scratching our heads. On one side you have the US Forest Service whose prescribed burn got out of control and burned 11,000 acres, at least half of which was private ranch land, and it gets declaire “No Liability.” On the other side, you have a family who got permission to start a prescribed burn then ended up with jail time when the fire got out of control and burned 140 acres of federal land. How exactly does that work?
Federal government denies liability on USFS lit Pautre Fire
In April of 2013, a U.S. Forest Service prescribed burn fire got out of control and ended up scorching nearly 11,000 acres of public and private lands southwest of Lemmon, South Dakota. One outbuilding was burned, along with fences, hay, and pastures.
According the the Tri-State Livestock News (http://bit.ly/1OdZEh2), the ranchers affected by the fire finally learned on June 27, 2015 that the the federal government will not take responsibility for the fire or associated expenses. The local grazing district had filed a claim for almost $2.5 million in damanges to restore the burned acres of prairie, fence, trees and hayground.
“Our review of the claim discloses no liability on the part of the United States. Therefore your FTCA (Federal Tort Claims Act) claim is denied,” said an assistant with the office of general counsel under the United States Department of Agriculture to the claimants.
Two Oregon Ranchers Sentenced to Jail for Range Fires
The Western Livestock Journal reports (http://bit.ly/1V3Znlr) that an eastern Oregon family with a long history in ranching is fighting to keep its cow/calf operation afloat against an onslaught of blows from the federal government. Two members of the Hammond family have been charged under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 for starting two range fires that ended up on federal land.
One of the fires, set in 2001, was a prescribed burn on Hammond’s private property; a routine range improvement practice. The other fire, set on Hammond’s private property in 2006, was a back-burn intended to protect the ranch’s winter pasture from a lightening fire on adjacent federal land. Combined, the two fires burned about 140 acres of federal land. Now, although two Hammond family members have already done time in federal prison for setting these fires, they are facing a resentencing—now scheduled for late October—that could land them back in prison.
The ranch is also paying $400,000 as part of the court settlement for the alleged costs of fighting these fires.
Like many areas of the United States, citizens in Siskiyou County are finding government regulations are destroying their RIGHTS. This includes Water Rights, Property Rights and Individual Rights. We believe in the Constitutions of the United States and State of California that provide RIGHTS for its citizens. We also believe these RIGHTS are being systematically reduced, which is resulting in tyranny from our governments -- at all levels.
Under the U.S. Constitution, the government should serve the people!