Ranchers whose case sparked standoff may get grazing rights

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By ANDREW SELSKY

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — The federal government has proposed awarding grazing allotments to an Oregon ranching family whose members were convicted of arson in a court battle that triggered the takeover of a federal wildlife refuge by right-wing extremists.

The Dec. 31 action by the Bureau of Land Management in favor of Hammond Ranches angered environmental groups.

“Giving the permit to the Hammonds shows a flagrant disregard for the rule of law … and is clearly a political move rather than a responsible allocation of public lands,” said Erik Molvar, executive director of Western Watersheds Project.

Steven Hammond, co-owner of the ranch, and his father, Dwight, were both convicted of arson for setting fire to range land and sent to prison for mandatory five-year sentences.

That led to the armed occupation of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon for 41 days in 2016. One occupier was shot dead by Oregon State Police. They say he reached for a pistol at a roadblock.

President Donald Trump pardoned the Hammonds in 2018, allowing them to be freed from federal prison.

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