Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Hammonds Pardoned by President Trump

President Trump, on yesterday 10 July, issued full pardons to Dwight Hammond Jr and his son Steven Hammond, two Oregon ranchers whose imprisonment strained already low confidence in how some Federal land management agencies treat some ranchers bordering federal land or have grazing permits for federal land. I have served as a Federal Law Enforcement Officer for a Land Management based agency and am ashamed at how some ranchers are treated by Federal agencies and their law enforcement arm, but this is not across the board. Some ranchers have good relationship, even partnerships in land stewardship with their Federal counterparts. Sadly, this was not the case in Harney County, Oregon.

Dwight and Steven Hammond were convicted in 2012 on charges of arson, after federal prosecutors alleged they were responsible for multiple fires (one in 2001 and one in 2006) that spread to government-managed land bordering their ranch, which they purchased in 1964. The Hammonds’ case was controversial for many reasons. First, the Hammonds were convicted under an antiterrorism act which carried a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison. This was a fire caveat in the anti-terrorism act intended for intentional acts of sabotage or arson from eco-terrorists or political-religious terrorists intent on destroying infrastructure or human life.

The fire in 2001, was an intentional prescribed fire, used to burn off invasive species of vegetation and otherwise increase the post fire growing of good grazing grass. The fire set on Hammond property, got away from Steve Hammond and burned around 120 acres of Federal land. Hammond made the necessary pre-burn notices and the Hammonds were able to put the fire out themselves. The fire in 2006, was due to a lightening caused fire moving across Federal land towards the Hammonds Ranch. The Hammond started a backfire on their property that was successful in putting out the lightning fire that had already covered thousands of acres within a short time. The Hammonds backfire saved much of their property and grassland needed for their cattle. This backfire however burned approximate one acre of Federal land.

Second, the federal prosecution of the Hammonds followed decades of harassment by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) where these agencies, one of the other, filed false charges leading to the arrests of the Hammonds 20 years earlier; blocked state roads to keep the Hammonds from accessing parts of their ranch; built fences to keep Hammond cattle from water; conducting searches of the Hammonds property and home; and, further filing false charges with local law enforcement against the Hammonds. The intent of the harassment was pretty much apparent as those Federal Agencies has bought up other local ranches and needed the Hammonds Ranch (who refused to sell) in order to expand the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. The Manager for the local field office of the BLM was a woman named Rhonda Karges. The Refuge Manager for the Malheur Wildlife Refuge was Chad Karges - this was a husband and wife team. The Malheur Wildlife Refuge is a horseshoe shape around the Hammonds Ranch. Converting the Hammond's ranch, with it's coveted water source, to a cohesive refuge property was the objective.

Thirdly, while convicted of charges in 2012 and serving time in jail - Dwight Hammond served a three-month sentence while his son Steven served a year in jail - the US Department of Justice challenged the sentences which were shorter than the mandatory minimum, and a Federal Judge resentenced the Hammonds forcing them back to prison to complete five-year terms.

Anyway, good on President Trump for partially righting this wrong. Dwight Hammond is around 76 years old having served 3 years in prison and son Steven is close to 50, and served around 4 years in prison. I'm sure they are happy about the pardons and freedom, but they'll never get that time back nor the $400,000 they paid to settle a civil suit brought on by the Justice Department.

If you read this story elsewhere, where writers link the injustice to the Hammonds with the Ammon Bundy led occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge Center, just be aware that the Hammonds did not ask for nor condone for supporters to occupy the Wildlife Refuge center which led to a stand off with local, state and Federal Law Enforcement that included the controversial shooting death of Levoy Finicum, a refuge occupier, by Federal agents.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

July 4th Independence Day

Much like many other American holidays, culture, tradition and practices have somewhat dulled the original meaning of what we celebrate. Today we celebrate the 242nd birthday of this Nation - when the thirteen colonies united to declare independence from the tyranny of the British monarchy and to stand for a God given right to self rule.

Like any rebellion, the roots began much earlier, decades earlier in our case, with the British Government looking at the Colonies as a source of revenue, and without allowing representation from the Colonialists, began to unfairly tax the colonies. The Sugar Act (1764), the Stamp Act (1765), the Quartering Act (1765), the Revenue Act (1766), the Townshend Acts (1767), and, the Tea Act (1773) all increasingly fanned the flames of that familiar phrase - "taxation without representation". The writers of our Constitution and Bill of Rights disliked the Quartering Act so much that they ensured through the Third Amendment that "No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law."

In December 1773, the Boston Tea Party, comprised of colonial men dressed like Mohawk Indians, boarded the tea laden ships from England that arrived in Boston Harbor, and threw over 300 chests of tea into the bay. Great Britain responded with the Coercive Acts (1774) and additionally, beginning in Massachusetts, which was pretty much the center of gravity for the rebellion, restricted community meetings in a measure to curb a quelling rebellion.

England appointed the Commander of British Forces in the colonies, Army General Thomas Gage, as Governor of Massachusetts. Through 1774, the idea of a Continental Congress was conceived and in September the First Continental Congress was held in Philadelphia. Though this first Congress debated many solutions to the tyranny of British rule, this first Congress ended up with a petition to King George III for a redress of grievances, which had no effect but to birth a Second Continental Congress in 1775.

What happened between the first and second Continental Congress' was, of course, the Battles of Lexington and Concord (Massachusetts), where on April 19th, the British Army units moved to seized Colonial military supplies to prevent means for an active armed rebellion, and to arrest the burgeoning rebellion's leaders. The British were initially successful in driving away the armed Colonials, but took a toll in casualties as they were driven back to Boston by a mounting number of Colonialists called to arms, then shortly Boston became surrounded by a Colonial militia force.....and the armed American Revolution began. The will and means to resist tyranny and the British attempts to seize firearms so prompted the Founders evident in their writings of the Second Amendment - "A well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed."

Throughout the founding and settlement of the Colonies, militias were formed for mutual defense, initially against hostile Indians. This began the tradition of the American Citizen-Soldier. One of my favorite stories is of the Culpeper Minutemen of central Virginia, which was basically the frontier in those days, who formed a unit under the famous white 'Culpeper Minutemen - Liberty or Death - Don't Tread on Me' flag, and in late 1775 began the fight for independence by marching to the east coast to engage the British attempting to land troops. The rifle marksmanship of the Culpeper Minutemen stopped the British attempt, continuing the already well known reputation of the marksman ability of American Frontiersmen.

The Second Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. The Declaration proclaimed that the former Thirteen Colonies then at war with Great Britain were now a sovereign, independent nation and thus no longer a part of the British Empire. By signing the declaration, these 56 Americans pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor - it was no idle pledge.

Nine signers died of wounds during the revolutionary war; five were captured or imprisoned; wives and children in some cases were jailed, killed or left penniless. Twelve signers houses were burned to the ground; seventen lost everything they owned. No signer defected, despite intense pressure to do so, their honor like their new nation remained intact. Future presidents Thomas Jefferson and John Adams were among the signatories.

So when you celebrate the 4th of July take a minute and reflect on what it took to give us this holiday. It took the will and sacrifice of men better than us.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Warming Up a Horse Before you Ride?

I recently went back and forth on e-mail with a friend of mine living up North who attended a horsemanship clinic where she was lunging her horse on a lead line and the clinician brought that up to the group as an example saying "you shouldn't need to warm a horse up before you ride him." My friend thought what the clinician said wasn't necessarily true all the time and wanted my opinion, and this is pretty much what we discussed.

I hope that what the clinician wanted to convey was that you are not going to get bad behavior out of a horse just by lunging him before you ride him. The old saying that you can't get the buck out of a horse by lunging him beforehand is pretty much true. But then again there certainly are cold backed horses who can wind down mentally by lunging, checking on the extent he's with you, and otherwise benefit by warming him up before you ride.

For the last several years, I seldom leave my house without a cup of coffee and going through a stretching routine. It makes walking and climbing onto a horse less painful. I think it may be the same for an older horse - get him moving without a load on (a rider in the saddle) so he can get the blood circulating, warming the muscles up and getting the joints to move more freer, making it easier for him to carry a load. If you wouldn't saddle a horse then immediately gallop him for fear of injury, why wouldn't you warm him up first before mounting?

So what are you really doing when lunging a horse before you ride him? For one thing, you are moving his feet at your direction re-establishing that leader to horse relationship, especially through changing directions. Moving the horse also lets you look at his gait to detect any problems and gets the muscles warmed up, reducing chances of injury. A couple days ago I was preparing to ride with my wife and I asked her to look at my horse's rear left fetlock because it looks just a bit swollen to me, she concurred, so I palpitated it getting no reaction from my horse such as a flinch or tail swishing, so I lead him forward at a trot to see if he was giving to it, and he wasn't, so after I mounted, I walked him for over a mile before I dismounted stretched him out, made sure he was good, then mounted again and felt better about it when I asked him to trot and lope. So again I ask, why wouldn't you warm him up?

In fact, once I mount a horse, unless I'm in a hurry to catch the Ice Cream truck before he leaves the area, I'll also do what I describe as a pre-ride check. Ask my horse to get soft and give me vertical and lateral flexion; back up; move the front end over independently from the back end and vice versa. It's like saying "Okay, it's time for business, just checking to make sure you're with me."

At my age now, I'm never going to get someone to cajole or harass me into riding a horse that I don't think I can likely get a safe ride out of - for him or me. And, I suggest that if you think you and your horse would benefit from warming up, whether it's on a lead or lunge line, or doing something else, by all means do it. No matter what a visiting clinician or anybody else thinks. Because after they leave, it's going to be just you and your horse.