With President Joe Biden working at the White House, the Interior Department has abruptly moved to undo a last-minute decision from the Trump era to grant grazing permits to ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond, who were convicted over arson attacks on federal lands but received pardons from Trump. On January 19, which was the Trump administration’s final full day in power, then-Interior Secretary David Bernhardt moved to allow the Hammonds to use land in southeast Oregon for grazing. Now, Laura Daniel Davis, who is serving as the acting assistant secretary for land and minerals management, has reversed the move.
In her explanation, Daniel Davis cited the fact that the January 19 allowance for the Hammond ranches’ grazing emerged before the legally mandated public comment period for grazing permits had concluded. Members of the public are supposed to get at least 15 days to voice concerns about pending grazing permits for public lands, but in this instance, that didn’t happen.
Daniel Davis commented as follows:
‘Because the protest period had not properly concluded before the January 19 decision was issued, I am rescinding the January 19 decision and remanding the matter to the [Bureau of Land Management] to allow for full consideration of the timely protests.’
Originally, the Bureau of Land Management revoked the Hammonds’ grazing privileges in 2014, following their charges over the arson incidents. The fires that led to their convictions included an early 2000s incident involving a fire that was meant to hide evidence of an illegal killing of a group of deer by the Hammonds and an incident later on when the Hammonds started controlled burns that were meant to guard their property against a raging local wildfire. After re-sentencings amounting to a total of five years in jail for both Hammonds, they were scheduled for release in 2019 and 2020, but the Trump administration stepped in with mid-2018 presidential pardons for both of them.
While in power, Trump provided presidential pardons to a substantial number of his political allies. For example, Roger Stone, Michael Flynn, and Paul Manafort, all of whom worked with Trump at some point and faced federal charges, received federal pardons.