Public Land Arson: Ranchers finally get the prison time the law requires. With additional information added.

Court resentences the Hammonds saying the original judge let them off easy — so easy it was against the law-

Back in 2010 to 2012 it was a big story, an Eastern Oregon ranch family, Dwight and Stephen Hammond were believed to have set fires to illegally burn public land, cover up poaching crimes, and perhaps more. Here are some of the stories we wrote about it.

Oregon ranchers indicted for arson wildfires and threats June 21, 2010.
Trial set for Oregon ranchers accused of multiple range fire arson June 4, 2012
“Striking testimony” in Oregon ranchers’ trial for rangeland arson June 13, 2012
East Oregon ranchers convicted of setting public lands afire  June 22, 2012

Two years after they were indicted they were convicted by a jury in Pendleton, Oregon in 2012.  They were expected to get the mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years each and fines. However, in a twist U.S. District Judge Michael Hogan gave them a light sentence and then he retired. Judge Hogan said that mandatory minimum five-year sentences were “grossly disproportionate” punishment for their crimes. Hogan’s actions were illegal under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996. The Hammonds had been charged under this domestic terrorism law.

The government appealed the light sentence and the 9th Circuit Court ruled that the minimum must be imposed. So now the ranchers are expected to go back to prison. They have already served their illegally light sentences and paid the government about $400,000.

The story in the Oregonian: Controversial Oregon ranchers in court Wednesday, likely headed back to prison in arson case

This might be the law to use to charge that rancher who summoned a mob when the BLM tried to impound his cattle after years of grazing with no permit. This assumes the government ever indicts him.

– – –

Added on Jan. 3, 2016. Here is the statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Federal District of Oregon on the conviction and resentencing of the Hammonds. It is significant because of the lack of information and rumors about the case and the resentencing.



, , ,




  1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
    Ralph Maughan

    According to some email discussion about the original judge, Judge Hogan of the light sentence, “who retired the day after openly flaunting the law for at least the 100th time, was the son of a right wing mill owner and previously a Portland bankruptcy judge. He was put on the bench as a joke on environmentalists by George HW Bush in 1995.”

  2. monty Avatar

    I know the type, I have lived in two small western towns where cattle are “king cotton” and ranchers are salt of the earth who can do no wrong. Ranchers favored term for bird refuges was “duck farms”.

  3. Daryl L. Hunter Avatar

    Congratulations Ralph, you and Jon Marvel have another evil food producer off the range. I though agreed with Judge Hogan’s sentence. The slap on the wrist would have worked for the message that was intended to be sent.

    The glee environmentalists feel on this re-conviction is indicative of why I never want to be identified as an environmentalist even though, as you know Ralph, there are some things which we agree.

    Because of people like you, a 73 year old hard working man is likely to die behind bars, fortifying the disdain many of us have for the environmental community.

    It is an odd world when the president of the USA considers the slaughter at Fort Hood by a radicalized muslim, “Work Place Violence”, yet the federal appeals court finds this range fire set with “no ill intent” an effort to produce more food, as terrorism.

    I am now terrorized by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

    1. Jay Avatar

      Congratulations Daryl, you are now a felon/arsonist sympathizer. Suppose someone died fighting those fires…no big deal because they are “food producers”, right?

      1. Daryl L. Hunter Avatar

        Twist my words as you will Jay, it is the appeals court decision I disagree with, not the original. They had ben warned about setting controlled burns.

        Carry on with your happy dance that Dwight Hammond horse’s hoof will never tread on his beloved desert, and he will likely never never set his eyes on eastern Oregon as at his age he will likely die in prison, but be cognizant of why “environmentalist” is a dirty word to many.

        1. Jay Avatar

          You imply that Ralph and Jon Marvel are somehow contributing to or being responsible for getting Mr. Hammond put back in jail (“you and Jon Marvel have another evil food producer off the range”) because Ralph has a story on HIS blog, and you cry about me twisting your words? Priceless! Hypocrisy at its finest.

          1. Daryl L. Hunter Avatar

            This is just part of the war against public grazing Jay, I know, as you do, where the lines are drawn. Most who read or write for this blog support the unjust re-sentencing and imprisonment of this public land rancher.

            1. Jay Avatar

              I guess if you want to sympathize with arsonists/felons and poachers, that’s your prerogative. I choose the side of the law.

        2. Jay Avatar

          Also, I’ve found “environmentalist” is only a dirty word by those who are no longer allowed to exploit it to the detriment of the general public.

          1. Daryl L. Hunter Avatar

            Not true Jay, there are likely millions that self identify as conservationists instead of “environmentalist” because of the negative connotation “environmentalist” has become. From where you sit though, this perception is invisible to you.

            1. Jay Avatar

              “There are likely millions…”

              If you’re going to make up numbers, go big–how ’bout billions?

              1. Daryl L. Hunter Avatar

                OK Jay, you convinced me, there is no negative connotation to “environmentalist” lol!

                1. Jay Avatar

                  I can think of a few words with much worse negative connotation: arsonist, felon, and poacher are a few that come to mind.

        3. Ralph Maughan Avatar
          Ralph Maughan

          OK Daryl (and everyone), Here is the U.S. attorney’s office statement on the conviction of the Hammonds and resentencing. There seems to have been significant amount of arson.

          1. JEFF E Avatar
            JEFF E

            it appears that Steven Hammond is little more than a self entitled punk who liked being the big fish in a small pond. Not sure what the mentality is that would defend a poaching lowlife like that.


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.

Subscribe to get new posts right in your Inbox

Ralph Maughan