East Oregon ranchers convicted of setting public lands afire

Jury rules that public land arson was committed-

The trial of two East Oregon ranchers, a father/son duo, has ended with their conviction by a jury in Pendleton, Oregon. .  Dwight L. Hammond Jr. and  son Steven D. Hammond were found guilty of setting range fires on public lands. One was in 2001 near Steens Mountain. The second was found to have been set by only one of the defendants. That was in 2006 in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. These two areas — Steens and Malheur — are generally regarded as of national importance. The men were accused of setting two other fires in 2006, but they were acquitted.

The Hammonds are reported to be looking at mandatory minimum prison time of 5 years each and fines that could go up to $250,000. Prison time maximum sentence appears to be 20 years.

The Wildlife News has been following this case since 2010.  ↓

“Striking testimony” in Oregon ranchers’ trial for rangeland arson. June 13, 2012
Oregon ranchers indicted for arson wildfires and threats. June 21, 2010




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  1. Barb Rupers Avatar
    Barb Rupers

    I hope the fines are hefty and sentences more than the minimum.

    I remember measuring a juniper on the south slope of the Steens in 1998 and wondering if it would make Oregon big tree status. It was definitly not a recent invader of rangeland being grazed by cattle which were fenced out of the only local public campground.

    Do cow pies last forever?

    1. louise wagenknecht Avatar
      louise wagenknecht

      Yes, Barbara, cow pies do pretty much last forever, unless there are a bunch of dung beetles around to pull them apart into little pieces and bury them. I had never seen these janitors of the Great Plains until I spent time in western Oklahoma. It makes sense that they would be there, as this was once such a homeland for bison. The beetles are still there, and cow pies don’t last long. Are there dung beetles in Idaho? We know that there were once large numbers of bison in southern and eastern Idaho, but I’ve never seen dung beetles here.

  2. Nancy Avatar

    A good article on the subject Barb:


    “Unattended cow pies in a pasture are a rich breeding ground for cow pests and parasites. Also, rather than fertilize the pasture as it would once it broke down, the inert dung is actually toxic to the pasture and stops grass from growing”

    Can only inagine the negative efects of tons of cow pies (year, after year, after year) on high meadows, on public lands.

  3. Uta Stansburiyana Avatar
    Uta Stansburiyana

    Hey Dwight! Hey Steve! Don’t drop the soap!

    1. Paul Avatar


  4. Mike Avatar

    If an environmental group did this, it would be classified as terrorism.

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
      Ralph Maughan


    2. WM Avatar

      Both should be called “ecoterroist,” but the crimes would still be classified as “arson” under the law, and the penalties very near the same.

      Today’s Seattle Times had an article on the last of the little twits that torched a $6M horticulture building at the University of WA about 10 years ago. She only got 4 years in a federal pen (with credit for 3 years time served in a plea deal).


      These ranchers, for their conviction, will get at least 5 years, up to 20. We can hope they also get fines AND maybe, if the public is lucky, have to pay restitution for damages. Guess we have to wait for the sentencing phase for the answer.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan