Dear Oregon Bureau of Land Management staffers,
I am writing today to ask you to please defend the proper administration of public lands. The recent decision to award Hammond Ranches, Inc. a livestock grazing permit and grazing preference to use four allotments in the Burns Field Office appears to have been politically influenced, and we need you to shed some light on the process.
In 2014, the Bureau refused to renew the Hammonds grazing permit, citing years of conflict and poor stewardship. The decision not to reissue the permit included the statement: “This narrative describes the actions of Dwight and Steven [Hammond] and demonstrates how the Hammonds violated BLM grazing regulations and the terms of Hammond Ranches, Inc.’s grazing permit, endangered the lives of numerous individuals including firefighters, and altered ecological conditions on public lands.” It goes on to describe multiple incidents of improper actions.
And let’s not forget how the Hammonds specifically threatened federal employees like yourselves. An article from 1994 includes this quote:
“The [Malheur National Wildlife] refuge has been trying to work with Hammond for many years,” said agency spokeswoman Susan Saul. A thick file at refuge headquarters reveals just how patient refuge managers have been. Hammond allegedly made death threats against previous managers in 1986 and 1988 and against Cameron, the current manager, in 1991 and again this year.
And let’s not overlook the recent history of overuse and disregard for turn-out dates demonstrated by the Hammonds during their temporary permitted use of 2019.
And yet, just the other day (December 31, 2020 in fact), the Bureau issued a proposed decision to award grazing preference and a grazing permit to Hammond Ranches, Inc., despite this history of abuse of the land. The NEPA analysis claims (emphasis added):
HRI was apportioned this preference based on the factors in 43 CFR 4130.1-2 due to their extensive historic use of these allotments, past proper use of rangeland resources, a high level of general need, and advantages conferred by topography. In addition, this applicant owns or manages the majority of the private property located within the Hammond, Hardie Summer, and Hammond FFR allotments. HRI holds the water rights associated with the spring that feeds the pipeline currently within the Hammond Allotment. Without access to water, and with water sources other than the pipeline being limited, the Hammond Allotment would be difficult for an outside operator to properly utilize. HRI owns the property associated with a spring in the current Hardie Summer Allotment. If this spring were to be developed and feed a pipeline (as currently described in this proposed decision), it would provide off stream water that would help pull livestock from riparian areas within the Hardie Summer Allotment, benefiting ecological conditions and better balancing resources within that allotment. No other applicants would be able to create this off-stream water source. No other applicant possesses the history on these grazing allotments that is held by HRI.
What are the chances that the proposed action was tailored so narrowly as to favor the Hammonds water access? Ninety percent?
And while I’m guessing at the odds that this decision wasn’t entirely neutral, here are a few other questions:
+ What are the chances that the Oregon State Office told the Burns District what to do, and when?
+ What are the chances that Secretary David Bernhardt and his anti-public lands henchman William Perry Pendley told the state office what to do?
+ What are the chances that Vice President Mike Pence told the Department of Interior what to do?
+ What are the chances that Forrest Lucas and his henchmen at the anti-environmental lobby group Protect the Harvest told VP Pence what to do?
Someone knows the answer to these questions, someone can describe the chain of command that resulted in the Hammonds getting a new permit to graze on 40,000 acres of public land, and someone needs to blow the whistle. That someone should come forward in defense of public lands and in defense of decision-making made freely and fairly based on accurate reporting of facts.
My email is firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll take all tips that lead us towards the truth.
Public Land Owner and Aficionado