Hammonds drop appeal to compete for lost grazing allotments

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Hammond Ranches has dropped a legal challenge against the federal government, at least for now, to compete for cattle grazing allotments in eastern Oregon it lost last year.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management can now choose whether the Hammond family or one of three neighboring ranches can use the 26,000-acre BLM allotments, The Capital Press reported.

Hammond Ranches hopes that U.S. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and the BLM will issue a permit to graze the four allotments as soon as possible, though it’s possible they may not be available for livestock this year, said Alan Schroeder, the company’s attorney.

The agency will conduct an analysis of qualified candidates but doesn’t have a specific timeframe for awarding the grazing permit, said Tara Thissell, BLM Burns District spokeswoman.

In its application, Hammond Ranches warned that it would demand “immediate compensation” for its range improvements, water rights and intermingled private lands if BLM awards access to the allotments to another ranch.

Ranchers Steven Hammond and his father, Dwight, are known for legal battles with the federal government and environmental groups.

Demonstrations against the federal government erupted when the Hammonds were resentenced and returned to prison in 2016 over convictions for burning public lands, leading to a 41-day occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon.

Both were released from prison in 2018 after President Donald Trump granted pardons for their arson convictions.

Though the Interior Department restored the grazing permit to Hammond Ranches in 2019, a federal judge overturned that decision after agreeing with environmentalists that it wasn’t properly substantiated.

Earlier this year, the BLM announced that it would allow the Hammonds and other ranchers to compete for the allotments.

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