Pardoned ranchers arrive home, plan lots of 'decompressing'July 12, 2018 4:58am

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Father and son ranchers, who were the focus of a battle about public lands and were freed from prison after receiving a presidential pardon, were welcomed home Wednesday in Oregon by relatives and horseback riders carrying American flags.

A lawyer for the family of Steven and Dwight Hammond said they remain focused on their attempt to restore grazing rights on Bureau of Land Management acreage.

Friction between the family and federal officials, and the sentencing of two members to five-year prison terms under an anti-terrorism statute, triggered the takeover of a nearby federal wildlife refuge by right-wing militants in 2016 that grabbed world headlines.

"We're exploring potential civil suits on behalf of the family to make sure they have their rights over land restored to them, that they're protected from more harassment and overzealousness of government agencies," attorney Morgan Philpot told The Associated Press.

The family also wants a dialogue between ranchers, politicians, federal agencies and bureaucrats, he said.

A news conference that had been set with family members outside the high-desert town of Burns was canceled when their convoy was delayed by a roadblock set up to allow a wide-load vehicle to pass.

"The family has already gone through enough. They were tired and wanted to go home and spend time with family," Philpot said. "Perhaps it was sheer coincidence that the oversized load was coming through the same road we were using."

The local BLM office did not immediately return a phone call or email seeking comment.

Earlier in the day, Steven Hammond and his father Dwight stepped from a private jet and into the arms of family members at a municipal airport outside the huigh desert community of Burns. A day earlier they were pardoned by President Donald Trump and released from a federal prison near Los Angeles.

"We're going to do a lot of decompressing and get back to our families," Steven Hammond said.

Just 25 miles (40 kilometers) away is Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, which was taken over in 2016 by armed protesters angered by the sentences given to the Hammonds.

The standoff lasted 41 days, ending after occupation leaders Ammon and Ryan Bundy were arrested and LaVoy Finicum was killed by police.

The occupiers, who believe federal control of public lands violates the Constitution, insisted the Hammonds were victimized by federal overreach.

Steven Hammond thanked Trump and many people on Wednesday for writing to him and his father while they were in prison.

"We received thousands of letters. There's a time you get to that point where a letter means a lot," Steven Hammond said, his voice choking up in video posted on Twitter by The Oregonian/OregonLive.

Some environmentalists see a pattern in the way Trump is approaching public lands, which comprise almost half of the U.S. West, and have linked the pardons to his position on the issue.

Witnesses testified that a 2001 arson fire occurred shortly after Steven Hammond and his hunting party illegally slaughtered deer on BLM property. The fire destroyed all evidence of the game violations, the U.S. attorney's office said.

The jury also convicted Steven Hammond for a 2006 blaze that prosecutors said began when he started several back fires, violating a burn ban, to save his winter feed after lightning started numerous fires nearby.

Federal anti-terrorism law called for mandatory five-year sentences for the 2012 convictions. A federal judge said those sentences wouldn't fit the crime, and instead sentenced Dwight Hammond to three months in prison and Steven Hammond to a year and one day.

A federal appeals court in October 2015 ordered them to be resentenced to the mandatory prison time.

"The use of anti-terrorism laws to prosecute Western ranchers makes no sense, from our perspective," Philpot said.

___

Follow Andrew Selsky on Twitter at https://twitter.com/andrewselsky

Page 1 of 1

More Stories Like This

In this Friday, June 29, 2018 photo, wild horses kick up dust as they run at a watering hole outside Salt Lake City. Harsh drought conditions in parts of the American West are pushing wild horses to the brink and spurring extreme measures to protect them. Federal land managers have begun emergency roundups in the deserts of western Utah and central Nevada. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Drought forces emergency measures for US West's wild horses
Mob lynches Muslim man over cow smuggling charges in IndiaPolice say a Muslim man has been beaten to death by a mob in western India over allegations of cow smuggling, the latest in a series of lynching by violent mobs in the country
Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh glances at reporters during a meeting with Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, July 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Kavanaugh: Once questioned Watergate tapes decision
This July 17, 2018 photo provided by the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of California shows Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego. Judge Sabraw, who ordered children be reunited with their families after being separated at the US-Mexico border, has been unyielding in his insistence that the Trump administration meet his deadline. Judge Sabraw gave the government until Thursday, July 26, 2018 to reunite more than 2,500 children 5 years old and older.(Martin Panuco/U.S. District Court in the Southern District of California via AP)
Judge, calm in court, takes hard line on splitting families
New Mexico man who fed wildlife at his home bitten by bearOfficials say a 70-year-old southern New Mexico man who regularly fed wildlife at his home suffered multiple injuries when he was bitten by a bear as he stepped outside
Judge rejects US efforts to strip terrorist of citizenshipA federal judge has rejected an effort by the Department of Justice to strip a terrorist of U.S. citizenship
This component is currently unavailable.
AdChoices

Related Searches

Related Searches

AdChoices