John L. Smith On The Pardons Of Dwight And Steven Hammond
President Donald Trump signed full pardons last week for Oregon cattle ranchers Dwight Hammond and his son, Steven Hammond.
The Hammonds found themselves in prison for arson after a long-running dispute with the federal government.
They were the inspiration behind the takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2016.
Nevada rancher Ammon Bundy led that takeover and it was the latest showdown between armed self-styled militia and law enforcement.
John L Smith has covered western land issues for many years. He calls the latest back and forth between western ranchers and the federal government Sagebrush Rebellion 2.0.
The original Sagebrush Rebellion pitted Nevada ranchers against the Bureau of Land Management in the 70s and 80s. Conservatives at the time, including President Ronald Regan, embraced the rebellion.
Smith said that combination worked to a degree.
The latest version of the Sagebrush Rebellion is closer to the White House and is using social media and the internet to spread its message and forward the image of a "rough-hewn western rancher who is being picked on by arrogant and distant federal government."
“It tends to be successful as long as it is in the headlines," Smith said, "Once it falls out of the headlines and it kind of loses its steam.”
Ryan Bundy is running for Nevada governor has an independent. Smith said Bundy has that image.
“Bundy is one of those folks, who sets a certain image and I think a lot of folks around him, especially folks with bigger political plans for Nevada they want to take advantage of the imagery,” he said.
The problem, Smith said, is that despite the state's image of individualism Nevada relies a great deal on the federal government for jobs and money.
Smith said the two sides to the public lands' story in the West both of legitimate points.
He pointed out that the BLM has run into trouble with some ranchers; however, the agency had also made mistakes in how it handled some issues.
The two sides are being used by people to get ahead.
“They are easy to exploit by people who want to use those difference to gain politically,” he said.
John L. Smith, contributor