Burns, Oregon Ranchers Jailed Due to Unjust Prosecution
Dwight and Steven Hammond are father and son ranchers, convicted of arson in 2012 for lighting public land on fire adjacent to their ranch. Their actions were part of brush clearing of their land, a common practice among ranchers that in fact increases the land’s productivity and clears dead and overgrown brush.
Unfortunately, the burn expanded beyond their ranch, but the end result is that they were able to extinguish the blaze on federal lands without federal resources being needed, and in fact, the federal land is also now clear of dead brush and grass and is healthier than before. However, BLM workers saw the blaze and the government is determined to show it’s power and control over lands that actually belong to the people.
The government then chose to prosecute, charging the two men with arson, terrorism, conspiracy and a host of other charges. The two men ultimately entered a plea deal and admitted to the two fires they started, and are paying a $400,000 judgement to the BLM. Arson of federal land carries a five-year minimum sentence, but Judge Michael Hogan sentenced them to a much shorter term, saying that the mandated 5+ year sentence would have been “grossly disproportionate” and that a longer sentence would have “shocked his conscience.”
This, however, does square with the federal government demanding that it’s subjects bow at the knee to their requirements of much longer jail sentences, a demand that will serve no other purpose than to bankrupt the Hammonds, and show ranchers and other citizens living in the West that they live on their land only by the good graces of Uncle Sam. The BLM has appealed the case and is demanding that Dwight and Steven Hammond serve their full sentence, or perhaps more, in a show of force and unrighteous pique.
However, the story is not over, because once again, citizens offended by the injustice of the incident are gathering to Burns, Oregon to confront the BLM bullies. The liberal press and the BLM are calling them “militiamen” and suggesting that what they are doing is improper and perhaps illegal. Bullies always are unhappy when someone stands up to them and challenges their actions, and this is certainly the case here. The Hammonds are due to report to federal prison on Monday, but these citizens and more have gathered in their support.
Ammon Bundy once helped his father repulse the government in an armed showdown on a Nevada desert. He was Tasered for his effort.
Ryan Payne, an electrician from Montana, joined that same standoff and boasted of organizing civilians into sniper squads that drew a bead on federal agents.
And not long ago, Jon Ritzheimer worried the FBI with his threatening rants against Muslims in Arizona and elsewhere.
Now, the men say, they are in Burns to help Dwight and Steven Hammond.
These and other patriots and militiamen gathering in Burns don’t want the Hammonds to go to prison, declaring it illegal under the U.S. Constitution.
They have latched on to the Hammonds as their latest cause to stand against the federal government.
“I am here now trying to empower and motivate the people of this community to take a stand against tyranny and show them that I will gladly stand with them,” Ritzheimer said.
The Harney County situation is the second time this year Oregon has been the national rallying point for militias. Last spring, miners fighting with the Bureau of Land Management over paperwork outside Medford found themselves enveloped with militia defenders. The miners finally issued a plea for militia members to go home. The militiamen did – but only after claiming they beat back the government. An administrative law judge temporarily stopped BLM action against the miners.
The federal government claims title to most of the land in Harney County, the ninth largest county in the United States. Bundy and Payne maintain that Article 1, Section 8, Clause 17 of the U.S. Constitution limits what the federal government can own, and that the government’s claim to much of Harney County violates that limit. The federal government consequently has no authority to prosecute the Hammonds.
Not all of the community supports the citizen-militia, and the Federal government has a vested interest in showing that the group members are powerless and merely rabble, out to cause trouble. Other community members such as the sheriff and other government officials seem more interested in keeping their jobs than in addressing the injustice being perpetrated on the Hammonds. And the BLM is anxious to avoid the embarrassing scene that occurred when they tried to railroad Cliven Bundy in Nevada.
But the reality is that these types of confrontations will continue as long as the federal government insists it is the master and not the servant of the people. It will take some confrontation, and it may even require some spilled blood. But the government must be muzzled and shown that the will of the people, our freedoms and our rights, must be respected and upheld. Whether the events playing out in Burns will further that aim remains to be seen.