The Backstory on the Hammonds and Malheur Conflict

Dwight Hammond and his son Steve, the ranchers who sparked the recent Harney County protests, were characterized as “responsible ranchers” by Congressman Greg Walden in a speech before Congress.

Walden sought to minimize the crimes the Hammonds have committed by suggesting they merely burned a bit more than a hundred acres, something that he tried to compare to normal everyday range management by federal agencies. So what’s the problem?  The problem is that Walden is ignoring decades of violations and other crimes committed by the Hammonds.

Despite their bad behavior, it has been revealed that the Hammonds are negotiating with the BLM to get their grazing permit reinstated after the BLM revoked it for their numerous violations and crimes.

The Bundy gang that is holding the Malheur Refuge and Harney County residents as hostages, characterized the Hammonds as victims of government “overreach” and are demanding that the Hammonds get their permit reinstated as one of the conditions they required to leave Harney County.

The Hammonds are anything but “responsible ranchers” or victims of government “overreach.” They are criminals who have repeatedly violated the law and have frequently avoided paying the penalties.

For instance, the Hammonds set a fire that burned public land in 1999, but no charges were brought against them. Then in 2001 they set another fire to hide the fact that they had poached at least seven deer out of season with other deer wounded and limping away according to witnesses. A hunting guide who witnessed the event was forced to leave his camp and flee for his life to avoid the flames. The fire burned 139 acres of public property and destroyed evidence of their poaching.

After they set the fire, it is alleged they threatened bodily harm to a teenage relative and told him to keep his mouth shut about the fire.

Then in 2006 the Hammonds set yet another arson fire was set that nearly overcame a BLM fire crew that was attempting to quell another blaze.

The arson charges were not the Hammonds’ first brush with the law. The Hammonds were arrested in 1994 and charged with felony for interfering with federal officials. The charge had a three year maximum sentence, but they only spent two nights in jail—after then Congressman Bob Smith intervened on their behalf.

After numerous violations of his grazing terms on the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Dwight Hammond had his grazing permit revoked. In retaliation, Hammond purposely disabled a bulldozer along the route of a fence line that was being constructed to keep their cows from trespassing on OUR public property. When the fence crew showed up, and called for a tow truck to remove the Hammond’s bulldozer, Dwight Hammond leaped to the levers and suddenly lowered the blade nearly killing one of the federal employees. Hammond was not even arrested or charged for this event.

After this incident, the refuge manager and others began to receive death threats over the phone. The refuge manager’s wife had to leave the area for fear of her life.

However, this was nothing new. In 1986, 1988, and 1991, Hammond made repeated death threats against refuge managers, plus frequently engaged in verbal abuses towards other federal workers.

Despite their vitriol rhetoric and disdain for the federal government, the Hammonds gladly collected a minimum of nearly $300,000 in direct subsidies from taxpayers, not to mention the below-cost grazing fees they enjoyed while feeding their cattle on public grasslands, as well as taxpayer-financed predator control, and who knows what else.  Meanwhile they own 12,866 acres of land, plus other assets like homes, equipment, and other valuables making them multi-millionaires who have no shame about taking taxpayer subsidies from the very government they continuously rail against.

The Hammonds are a genuine threat to our public lands. They intimidate public employees and violate the regulations designed to protect public property. Public lands are part of our national patrimony that are being trashed for the private profit of individuals like the Hammonds. The only public property the Hammonds should have access to is the public prison where they are serving time for their blatant disregard for our public lands heritage.


  1. Loren Avatar

    Governor Brown has made her position clear and asked for federal intervention. Maybe these creeps will be in the slammer soon.

  2. HLB Avatar

    I have heard that our Government is no saint. I would like to hear the other side of these stories.

    1. Mal Adapted Avatar
      Mal Adapted

      Of course our government is no saint. Our government is us, and none of us is a saint.

      The founders of our country understood very well that individuals will interpret the facts in a dispute differently, according to their self-interest. Hearsay and gossip are inevitably confused, and often contain deliberate falsehoods.

      That’s why the Constitution provides for disputes to be adjudicated under duly-enacted laws. The alternative is a war of each against all.

      The system isn’t expected to work perfectly. It’s expected to keep the peace!

  3. Larry Avatar

    Hear, hear!!

    1. Larry Avatar

      (That’s a Hear, hear for George) NOT HLB!

  4. Taz Alago Avatar
    Taz Alago

    Thank you George!

  5. monty Avatar

    George, I agree, the Hammonds are lawless. The BLM employees are professional and fair in their dealings with the public. It’s so easy to blame the “government”. Who works for the “government”? Mothers and fathers,aunts and uncles, nephews and nieces, first cousins, 2nd cousins, third cousins, etc.

  6. Jerry Freilich Avatar
    Jerry Freilich

    In response to the poster who wants to hear “the other side of the story” I would point out that violating grazing lease terms, threatening federal officials, torching public lands, and all these other things outlined…. are not legal or appropriate ways to deal with issues. If these individuals have arguments with federal laws or wish to change those laws, there are legal ways to do that. Ways that ALL THE REST OF US are forced to use.

  7. Patricia Randolph Avatar

    As a journalist writing the Madravenspeak LIVING wildlife column for the Capital Times progressive newspaper out of Madison, WI – the overall picture of WILDLIFE “SERVICES” destroying our wild indigenous cougars, bobcats, lynx, wolverines, wolves, bears, deer, elk all the way through to groundhogs and black-footed ferrets is a disaster of subsidies and destruction, including road-building, ancient aquifer emptying, desertifying, polluting, and abusing our public lands ten cents on the dollar and unpaid grazing fees at that.
    Is there anyway around the powerful western rancher power block, led by Tester (D) who was gifted with killing wolves to keep his seat for the Dems to keep the senate? We need to end grazing on our public lands and retire grazing permits granted in perpetuity from the Taylor Grazing Act.
    We also need education of the public that funding state wildlife agencies primarily on killing licenses is a disaster of epic proportions, excluding the 95% of us who do not kill from any protection of our commons and wildlife. The complicit non-profits are all about land, air and water – and the wildlife is being wiped out. Imagine their suffering. It is immoral.

  8. Ida Lupines Avatar
    Ida Lupines

    And speaking of the repulsively primitive and embarrassing, the latest from the Bundy thugs. George, they must have the ear of the very powerful, because they are very confident in behaving with such impunity. Gremlins!

  9. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    Ranchers who lease public land for grazing think that is a”Rent To Own” program. They rent our public land for a few years and then they think they OWN it. They see BLM and Forest Service rangers and range technicians as trespassers.

    The Hammonds and the Bundys are the poster boys for this herd of Jack Booted thugs.

  10. Nancy Avatar

    A swift, yet peaceful solution – Cut off any new supply deliveries to the refuge, shut down the utilities and any that venture far from the refuge, “dart em” and haul their asses back to Daddy Bundy’s compound in Nevada 🙂

    Thought the “roundtable” video was kind of amusing especially since it was from Fox Network:

    And Miracle Whip? OMG!! 🙂

    1. Ida Lupines Avatar
      Ida Lupines

      I don’t know about the Ketamine argument on the other thread, but I’d certainly want to go over the inventory after these guys leave, that’s for sure.

      I don’t know who I am more disappointed with, them or our weak gov’t response! It looks like they’ve got 50-100 packages coming in a day, like their own little post office, from an article I read. I should have posted that too.

    2. Larry Avatar

      For crying out loud, whose mailbox is it anyway. Just make a change of address notice for deliveries and send all food stuffs to the local charity in Bend. This is starting to get like it’s happening on another planet!

      1. Nancy Avatar

        “This is starting to get like it’s happening on another planet!”

        But they’ve got a ways to go to beat this record, Larry:

        1. Rich Avatar

          At least the guy in Texas was off the streets in a self imposed prison. In the case of the Bundy clan they are free to come and go whenever they want, remove historic artifacts, hold news conferences and incite others to ignore federal and state laws and to use government equipment to remove fencing, build roads, etc. At the same time they are given free use of government resources, buildings, and utilities such power and water. The taxpayers are being asked to support the whole fiasco while the Bundys cavort in the spotlight apparently without penalties or consequences.

  11. Ethen Perkins Avatar
    Ethen Perkins

    I commend George for pointing out the fallacy of Rep. Walden’s position that the Hammond boys are responsible rancher’s with legitimate complaints. Far from it. For decades they have been thieves, arsonists, and the worst kind of public welfare frauds who often managed to get mild hand slaps for their destructive and defiant behavior. That they want their abused grazing leases reinstated is beyond the pale. Using their rightful imprisonment and loss of lease as the reason the Bundy militants held Malheur Refuge at gun point reveals the Bundy’s and their followers as more public lands “welfare frauds” and thugs. Check out my recent letter published in Oregonian, Eugene’s Register Guard, and Eugene Weekly.

  12. Mary Kwart Avatar
    Mary Kwart

    I worked for 7 years in Alaska for the US Fish and Wildlife Service. 4 of those years were as the Fire Management Officer on the Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge in Tok, a remote town in the Interior. There is a time and place for prescribed burning and I doubt the Hammonds had the requisite knowledge to conduct one efficiently and safely. I also keep imagining what it would have been like to have goons with guns invade my office. People don’t realize how many hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of grants are managed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service to do work in local communities–i.e. fuels reduction work around communities (and I don’t mean timber sales!) and helping local volunteer fire departments.


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George Wuerthner