The scenario that played out could not have been more fitting as it was Hank Vogler who informed me several years ago about the legal situation his lifelong friends in Harney County, Oregon, were in when they were convicted as “terrorists” for burning 137 acres of federal land with permission from the Bureau of Land Management.
Vogler was the first to inform me that President Donald Trump issued a full pardon to Dwight and Steven Hammond on July 10. They were released later that day and returned home on July 11.
I have reflected on how many different folks I communicate with regularly, how many new events have taken place and how many things have changed in my life as a result of the Hammonds being sent to prison. I would like to remind you they were sent to prison twice for properly managing natural resources, by starting a backfire (with permission from same government that later convicted them) that ultimately burned a mere 137 acres with no damage to structures or humans.
I had a great conversation with Susie Hammond just hours after she learned that the pardon had finally happened. She is truly the strongest-willed woman I have ever met. I know the wishes of the family and I would like to share that with readers. Their goal is not to go back and rehash the horrific miscarriage of justice that caused the family and the community so much pain and suffering, but rather to acquire wisdom from the events that we can use to go forward and become even stronger.
However, I feel it is incumbent upon me to share just a glimpse of their pain as a factual response to the many MSM outlets that are already sharing some version of the Hammond story. Because the Hammond family spent 30 years fighting for their property rights, they became a target of the federal government, which sought any opportunity to get rid of this cog in their bureaucratic wheel.
As a result, the Hammond family has paid $400,000 in civil fines and Dwight and Steven Hammond spent a combined seven years in prison away from their families and their ranches. All this was a penalty for burning 137 acres to stop a massive wildfire.
The Hammond family issued a press release and I think it is worthy of sharing a portion of that here:
“We are hopeful that this action by President Trump today, will also help signal the need for a more measured and just approach by federal agents, federal officers and federal prosecutors in all they do.”
That is fair. That is not too much to ask. In fact, every patriotic, America-loving citizen should unite in asking for the same thing. That is obviously the same thought process the president has because the following was taken directly from the statement issued by the White House on the issue of Dwight and Steven Hammond:
At the Hammonds’ original sentencing, the judge noted that they are respected in the community and that imposing the mandatory minimum, 5-year prison sentence would “shock the conscience” and be “grossly disproportionate to the severity” of their conduct. As a result, the judge imposed significantly lesser sentences. The previous administration, however, filed an overzealous appeal that resulted in the Hammonds being sentenced to five years in prison. This was unjust.
That is the very thing I have been sharing for over three years now. I think the most remarkable thing about this situation is that hundreds of people who at some point learned of the plight of the Hammonds were willing to step up to the plate to try to help. I realize that every single week I continue to ask for more advocacy against the erosion of our personal freedoms and it doesn’t seem like all that many are willing to step up. That being said, only 17 percent of the colonial citizens of our young nation thought fighting for freedom from the British was worth it and look what happened there.
It only takes a few good people to make a positive difference. Clearly this is not over for them and their lives and those of their families and supporters will never return to what it was before this ugly incident.
If there is any one thing that I hope our three daughters learn from us as parents is that anything worth having is worth fighting for. That will not always come quickly or easily. In fact, in most cases you will need to be resilient and always keep your eye on the target. Only then will you reap the rewards of your efforts.
Welcome home Dwight and Steven. Thank you so much for the sacrifices made by you and your family and we will continue to work so that your efforts were not in vain. In the words of the immortal cowboy John Wayne, “Now get to work. You’re burning daylight!”
Editor’s note: Trent Loos is a sixth generation United States farmer, host of the daily radio show, Loos Tales, and founder of Faces of Agriculture, a non-profit organization putting the human element back into the production of food. Get more information at www.LoosTales.com, or email Trent at [email protected].