BLM Red River Land Grab is Far From Over [OpEd]
Image Credit: Mike Hendren / Townsquare Media
I could write a small book on this matter: The BLM Land Grab. But, in the interest of both my time and yours I’m going to keep this short, sweet and simple. The Bureau of Land Management is continuing its push to remove landowners from property along the Red River that the landowners have every legal right to possess.
Several land owners along the Red River in Wilbarger, Wichita and Clay Counties stand to lose some 90,000 acres of property to the BLM in this federal land grab. The BLM contends that they control the land per the terms of the 1803 Louisiana Purchase, in which the United States government purchased more than 800,000 acres of land from France. The BLM also contends that the 1819 Adams-Onis Treaty reaffirms the Red River boundary control.
The BLM also cites a series of Supreme Court cases from the 1920’s that declared some of the Red River lands to be public. But land owners along the Red have long-held deeds to the disputed property and those families have paid taxes on this land for many decades. At least a couple of those property deeds reportedly date to the mid 1850’s.
Two of those land owners, Kevin Hunter and Pat Canan, have joined a lawsuit challenging the BLM in federal court. Texas 13thd District Congressman Mac Thornberry has sponsored H.R.2130 – The Red River Private Property Protection Act-designed to force the feds to allow a licensed land surveyor to determine the exact boundaries. The BLM has thumbed their nose at any notion of private ownership.
Everything from oil discoveries to the natural shifting of the Red River itself has led to boundary disputes between Texas and Oklahoma. The natural river boundary movements are described as ‘avulsion and accretion’. A 2014 Texas Tribune article describes it in some detail:
How a river moves matters mightily in boundary disputes. In Texas and U.S. law, avulsion happens when a river suddenly abandons its channel and creates a new river bend, leaving a peninsula untouched by the water (Oklahoma’s definition of avulsion is broader; it only requires a sudden change in flow.) When avulsion happens, a state’s border would stay put, regardless of how much the river moved. With erosion and accretion, a river changes course more slowly, gradually sweeping away the land in its path, without creating an entirely new channel. When that happens, the boundary moves with the river.
If there does exist any dispute over the lands that border the Red River then it is a Texas-Oklahoma fight and not a federal one. Regardless of any avulsion or accretion, the fact remains that the BLM is engaging in a land grab, confiscating lands that land owners hold legally binding deeds to and have paid tens or perhaps hundreds of thousands of dollars in property taxes on for many, many years.
For any court to find in favor of the Bureau of Land Management in these cases would be nothing less than government sanctioned theft. And you have to ask yourself, why is it so imperative that the feds control this land? They really don't care so much about the land as they do controlling it. And perhaps more importantly controlling the water that flows along side of it and the oil and natural gas that lies beneath. It's government overreach to the Nth degree.