Cattle graze

Cattle graze in Eastern Oregon. An update to the rules related to the National Environmental Policy Act will help ranchers, proponents say.

Sometimes, it appears that the environmental community can be its own worst enemy. Instead of building bridges with farmers and ranchers, some environmental groups do the opposite. Anywhere there’s a bridge, they show up with a can of gas and matches to make sure it doesn’t stand.

A case in point is the vendetta a handful of environmental groups is carrying out against the Hammond family in Eastern Oregon. You will recall that Dwight and Steven Hammond were convicted of arson after setting an unauthorized field burn. A total of 140 acres was burned without the permission of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

The facts of the case were clear. What wasn’t clear is why they were charged under an anti-terrorist statute with a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years. The federal judge overseeing the case ignored the mandatory sentences and reduced them to 3 months in the case of Dwight and 1 year in the case of Steven, his son.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the shorter sentences and sent the case back to another judge, who dutifully sentenced them to the full 5 years.

Over a field burn.

It was one of the most blatant cases of injustice one could imagine, so much so that President Donald Trump stepped in and pardoned the Hammonds.

The Interior secretary then reinstated four BLM allotments.

That should have been the end of the story, but this handful of environmental groups — Western Watersheds Project, Center for Biological Diversity and Wildearth Guardian — is continuing to try to get the Hammonds kicked off the federal grazing allotments. They claim the cows, which have grazed there for years and years, are damaging the environment. They went to court and got a judge to limit grazing on the allotments.

The groups are now seeking a summary judgment, arguing that other factors related to the case should also be considered and their presidential pardons “did not alter the conduct, acts and behavior” that originally led up to the denial of their grazing permits.

In legalese, they claim the reinstatement of the grazing permits violated FLPMA and NEPA by invoking CX.

We will translate: They say the Hammonds don’t meet the standards of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act — FLPMA. Apparently, a presidential pardon isn’t enough to show that the Hammonds were unnecessarily dragged into prison.

And under the National Environmental Policy Act — NEPA — the Hammonds shouldn’t have been given a “categorical exclusion” a CX, according to the environmentalists. The Hammonds should have been required to write an environmental assessment or an environmental impact statement.

The judge in the case will weigh the legalities of these arguments. Whatever he decides, we can all be assured that what’s legal and what’s just are two very different things.

If they win, no doubt the environmentalists will do a happy dance and do another round of fundraising touting their “victory.” But they will have also burned yet another bridge in their legalistic quest that appears to be out to destroy all in its path.

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