According to a story published by the Wall Street Journal, the Trump administration and the Bureau of Land Management have reinstated the federal grazing permits of lawbreaking extremists who were convicted of arson on public lands in Oregon.
The Hammonds were convicted of arson on federal land in a dispute over public lands management. The convictions carried a statutory federal minimum of five years in prison. The issued gained the attention of anti-public land zealots Ammon and Ryan Bundy, who ended up taking up arms and illegally occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge for 41 days over the issue. President Trump recently pardoned the Hammonds in July of 2018.
“By allowing these lawbreaking extremists back on public lands, the Trump administration is sending the message that politics will always trump our American birthright,” said Chris Saeger, Executive Director of Western Values Project. “The American people must be made whole for the damage done to public lands by the Hammonds. In the end, the Trump administration has allowed our public lands to burn and taxpayers get stuck with the bill.”
The Trump administration is setting a dangerous precedent by conceding to known anti-public land factions that may endanger public lands, managing agencies and employees. Ex-lobbyist turned Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt has not commented on the reinstatement of the grazing leases and has yet to clarify his position on the sale or transfer of public lands that extremist groups like the Bundys have sought.
Western Values Project (WVP) noted last year that Interior hired controversial land seizure lawyer Karen Budd-Falen to be Deputy Solicitor for Wildlife and Parks. Budd-Falen has previously identified with the goals of armed militia leader and Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who refused to pay grazing fees and treated public lands as his private rangeland.
A WVP analysis has found that a number of Trump’s political appointees at Interior are sympathetic to the land transfer movement, including BLM Deputy Director for Policy and Programs, who is exercising the authority of the director, Brian Steed who was chief of staff for land transfer advocate Congressman Chris Stewart. Steed was Stewart’s chief of staff when the Congressman founded the Federal Land Action Group, a group “committed to developing a legislative framework for transferring federal lands to local ownership and control.”