Seventy-year-old Dwight Hammond Jr. and son Steven D. Hammond, 43 are cattle ranchers in South East Oregon. The Hammonds face five-year mandatory minimum prison sentences plus maximum fines of $250,000 each and restitution for setting several relatively small fires on BLM land.
The government alleged the Hammonds set a range fire in 2001 to reduce the growth of juniper trees and sagebrush and to accelerate the production of rangeland grasses for cattle feed. In several other cases the Hammonds admitted to setting several supression or back fires in response to natural wildfires. However, the government concluded that "fires intentionally set on public lands endanger firefighters and the public."
The Hammonds were originally given light sentences in 2012, but the federal government recently appealed the original sentence and is sending them back to jail to serve their full 5-year minimum sentence under a domestic terrorism law. Many think this appeal and re-sentencing constitutes double jeopardy where a person is tried twice for the same or similar offenses.
Cattle rancher Cliven Bundy had a standoff with BLM and ATF agents in 2014. The Bundy's had been grazing cattle on BLM land without paying grazing fees since 1993. Tea Party activists, and militia groups from around the country congregated at the Bundy Ranch to prevent the forceable removal of Bundy cattle from BLM land. BLM eventually suspended the operation because of bad media publicity and to prevent an armed escalation.
In the latest development, Ammon Bundy and several other sons of Cliven Bundy sought to make a similar stand with the Hammond's and resist the Federal Goverment action. The Hammonds didn't want to fight and turned themselves in to return to jail. However, instead of giving up, Ammon Bundy and a small group decided to take over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters. Ammon Bundy, minus their father Cliven, are again calling for patriots, Tea Party activists, and militia groups to gather with them at the refuge.
Taking over a federal government refuge and calling out for reinforcements could easily escalate into another Ruby Ridge, Waco situation, or worse. Yet, if the Federal government had any serious intention of diffusing this situation they would prevent any more sympathizers from traveling into the area. The FEDs could easily cut them off now. If their numbers swell, then its only because it is being allowed.
What has the LDS Church said about militias and armed government protests? LDS Church Apostle Elder Dallin H. Oaks spoke on these issues in a 2012 Regional Conference at BYU:
"Another example that I understand to be current among some members in this part of this church is the influence of right-wing groups who mistakenly apply prophecies about the last days to promote efforts to form paramilitary or other organizations. Such groups might undermine the authority of public officials in the event of extraordinary emergencies or even in cases of simple disagreement with government policy. The leaders of the church have always taught that we should observe the law and we should not try to substitute our own organizations for the political and military authorities put in place by Constitutional government and processes. We counsel against joining or supporting paramilitary organizations. I have sometimes taught this principle by reminding that the church has counseled the storage of food and water, not the storage of arms and ammunition."
--Elder Dallin H. Oaks, Regional Conference, BYU Marriot Center, Sept 17, 2012.
Official LDS Statement on Oregon Stand-Off:
"While the disagreement occurring in Oregon about the use of federal lands is not a Church matter, Church leaders strongly condemn the armed seizure of the facility and are deeply troubled by the reports that those who have seized the facility suggest that they are doing so based on scriptural principles. This armed occupation can in no way be justified on a scriptural basis. We are privileged to live in a nation where conflicts with government or private groups can – and should – be settled using peaceful means, according to the laws of the land.”
You can't fight to preserve the US Constitution by disgarding the Constitution. The Book of Mormon calls for us to conduct governmemt by the voice of the people.
That being said, I do sympathize with the Hammonds and other ranchers. I do feel like their are serious issues here and Constitutional violations. The Hammonds were a victim of double jeopardy, they were unfairly tried and convicted as terrorists. I also agree that the Federal government should not have control of 1/3 of US Land. I don't necessarily mind an occupy movement either but I would prefer using the Constitutional mechanisms to restore the constitution and I don't like the "militia/militant" side of the movement.