The federal government, whose agencies regularly use prescribed burns–many of which spread accidentally and cause extreme damage to life and property–already enjoy the protections Walden extends to civilian property owners in HR 983.

by Marjorie Haun

United States Representative Greg Walden of Oregon has been a lone advocate for the rural interests of his state amid a forest of progressive politicians and radical special interest groups. During the so-called Oregon Standoff, when a group of ranchers protested the convictions of Dwayne and Steven Hammond under federal terrorism statutes in late 2015, Representative Walden took a courageous stand for property rights and balance in cases such as that of the Hammonds.

The Oregon Standoff was not some random, ‘anti-government’ riot by right-wing extremists. It was a public demonstration against the unjust, overreaching, and cruel treatment of the Hammonds, and other ranchers in Harney County, Oregon, who, for decades, have been harassed, persecuted, and prosecuted by federal agencies. The 2015 sentencing of the Hammonds resulted from their past efforts to control overgrowth and noxious weeds on rangeland through the setting of prescribed burns, 2 of which accidentally spread onto nearby Bureau of Land Management (BLM)-managed land, doing little damage. Over-zealous federal prosecutors in the Obama Justice Department determined that the time previously served by Dwayne and Steven Hammond for accidental–and minor–damage to ‘federal property’ was insufficient. So, using federal terrorism laws to prosecute the father and son ranchers, the federal government opted to make examples of the Hammonds, and sent them back to federal prison to live out the remainder of their mandatory 5-years sentences.

On February 7, 2017, Representative Walden introduced a bill to ensure ranchers and landowners will be protected against such future overreach by the federal government. The Resource Management Practices Protection Act of 2017, HR 983, reads:

H. R. 983

 

To bar prosecution under section 844(f)(1) of title 18, United States Code, in certain cases.


IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
February 7, 2017

Mr. Walden introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary


A BILL

To bar prosecution under section 844(f)(1) of title 18, United States Code, in certain cases.

 

 

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited as the “Resource Management Practices Protection Act of 2017”.

SEC. 2. BAR TO PROSECUTION UNDER SECTION 844(f)(1) OF TITLE 18, UNITED STATES CODE, IN CERTAIN CASES.

Section 844(f)(1) of title 18, United States Code, is amended—

 

(1) by inserting “(A)” after “(f)(1)”; and

 

(2) by adding after and below the end the following:

“(B) Subparagraph (A) shall not apply if—

“(i) the damage or destruction, or attempt to damage or destroy, is by means of a fire that—

“(I) is set by a person to property owned by the person—

“(aa) to prevent an imminent threat of damage to that property; or

 

“(bb) as part of any other generally accepted practice for managing vegetation on timber, grazing, or farm land;

 

“(II) does not pose a serious threat of injury to any individual or damage to any building, dwelling, or vehicle of the United States; and

 

“(III) does not result in death or serious bodily injury to any individual; and

 

“(ii) an individual who has not attained 16 years of age is not used in setting the fire.”.

Walden’s bill specifically addresses those property owners who use the common management practice of prescribed burns to renew soil, improve forage, and prevent future wildfires. And its protections are limited to those who follow accepted procedures, have proper supervision, and whose actions do not result in the death or injury of persons.

The federal agencies which regularly use prescribed burns–many of which spread accidentally and cause extreme damage to life and property–already enjoy the protections Walden extends to civilian property owners in HR 983.

*****

There are numerous petitions and similar efforts to bring attention to the unjust imprisonment of the Hammonds, and to urge the Trump Administration to grant them, and other landowners, ranchers, and law-abiding citizens now serving sentences related to extreme regulatory overreach by the feds, immediate clemency. We urge you to sign and share our petition, which will be sent to Attorney General Sessions and members of Congress, as well as the Trump White House.

We also urge you to contact your Congressmen and insist that they support Representative Walden’s bill, and ensure it is passed in the House, the Senate, and then receives the signature of the President.

Never again should ranchers, farmers, or law-abiding landowners be prosecuted as ‘terrorists’ for accidents related to efforts to manage their own property.

Free Range Report

 

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