Related events sometimes occur simply as a result of coincidence. However, I am skeptical this was the situation when on June 5, 2019, a U.S. District judge issued a 28-day temporary restraining order that will stop Steven and Dwight Hammond from using their federal grazing permit near their ranch in Diamond, Oregon. Ironically, June 5 was also the day designated by the United Nations as World Environmental Day. I tend to view most actions by the United Nations to be questionable anyway.
The lawsuit against the Hammonds which led to the judge’s TRO ruling was filed by Western Watersheds Project, Center for Biological Diversity, and Wildearth Guardians - three activist environmental groups whose goal is to stop all cattle grazing on Federal lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service.
The Hammond’s story is well-known and I don’t need to repeat it, but rather to simply say that I didn’t agree with their treatment in the courts and neither did President Trump. He pardoned them and shortly afterward, former Secretary of Interior Zinke ordered the BLM to reinstate their grazing license.
Grazing licenses are issued for a 10-year period with a designated number of cattle for a designated grazing period and can be temporarily amended according to resource conditions. In the western U.S. many, if not most, ranches depend upon grazing on federal lands which comprise significant portions of western states. Many of these western U.S. ranches hold BLM grazing permits dating back to the establishment of the BLM in 1946. Federal lands grazing is not only an important component of these ranches’ ability to operate, accounting for a significant share of their total grazing resource, it is an important and necessary tool to reduce the incidence and destruction of wildfires.
Perhaps the judge’s temporary restraining order and the designation of World Environmental Day is not as ironic as I am suggesting, but rather nothing more than sheer coincidence. I am skeptical. After nearly 40 years of observing and testifying as an expert in court for ranchers fighting to save their permits and their livelihoods against lawsuits filed by environmental groups, I am skeptical - period. I don’t know the Hammonds personally, but I stand with them in the fight for their Federal grazing permit and the freedom to operate their ranch within the bounds of that permit.