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Know the West

Under Biden, the BLM backtracks on Hammond grazing permit

Days before their herd was set to return to public lands near Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, two fire-starting ranchers lose their grazing rights.


Cattle grazing in an allotment near Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon. The Hammonds’ grazing permit for 26,000 acres of public ranchland bordering Malheur was rescinded last month.

In 2012, Dwight and Steven Hammond, father-and-son ranchers in Oregon, were convicted a second time of setting fire to federal land. Their incarceration helped spark the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2016, which was led by brothers Ammon and Ryan Bundy. In 2018, President Donald Trump pardoned the Hammonds (“The BLM’s blessing,” 5/27/19). Just days before Joe Biden took office, the Bureau of Land Management hastily granted them a 10-year grazing permit in southeastern Oregon on land bordering the refuge.


In late February, the Hammonds were set to release their cattle on 26,000 acres of public ranchland bordering Malheur. But before they could, a senior official in President Biden’s Interior Department rescinded their grazing permit, citing an insufficient public protest period. The decision came on the heel of four lawsuits brought by environmental groups over the last-minute permitting process. Laura Daniel-Davis, the official who published the memo, advised the BLM to seek public input before proceeding.

Surya Milner is an editorial intern at High Country News.  Email her at [email protected] or submit a letter to the editor.