My husband and I have been ranching in South Texas for many years, and we have worked hard to care for the land my family lives on today. This same testament holds true for millions of other ranchers and landowners across the country.
Sadly, it seems like every time we turn around the federal government finds another way to try claiming the land and resources that constitutionally belong to us.
One issue that has raged for years is the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) claim that it owns 30,000 acres of land along a 116-mile stretch of the Red River on the Texas-Oklahoma border. The Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA) has heard from members along the Red River who are worried about the federal government taking control of their land, and TSCRA shares their concern.
The federal government claims this property has been under its control since the 1803 Louisiana Purchase. Ironically, the federal government has surveyed only about 6,500 acres of the land, and the results are highly questionable. The survey method they used differs greatly from the accepted gradient boundary survey method established by the Supreme Court in the 1920s.
TSCRA and affected citizens believe the BLM’s claim to this property is completely bogus. Those who live and own agricultural operations on this stretch of land hold the deeds and continue paying the property taxes. As a landowner myself, the thought of the government taking away property many of these citizens have worked tirelessly and sacrificed to own is unfathomable.
While one of the many Red River land disputes was recently resolved, much work needs to be done to put the entire issue to rest.
Fortunately, U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry and Sen. John Cornyn introduced H.R. 2130/S. 1153, the Red River Private Property Protection Act, to protect private landowners along the Red River from federal ownership claims.
This legislation includes several key provisions to accomplish its intended goal. It commissions a survey of the entire 116-mile stretch of contested area along the river using gradient boundary survey methods backed by the Supreme Court to find the proper boundary between Texas and Oklahoma. This survey must be paid for by the federal government and conducted by licensed state land surveyors chosen by the Texas General Land Office (TGLO).
Additionally, the legislation provides legal certainty for citizens holding the deed to their property by allowing them to appeal any further public domain claims by BLM through an administrative law judge.
TSCRA appreciates Rep. Thornberry and Sen. Cornyn for listening to affected citizens’ concerns and working closely with them to craft this crucial legislation. Our association strongly supports this bill and urges the House and Senate to act on it swiftly to provide the certainty these landowners deserve.
While the BLM issue may affect Texas citizens along the Red River the most, landowners everywhere should be equally concerned. This is only one example out of a long list of instances where the federal government is infringing on private property rights and our way of life.
We have seen issues of government intrusion and the creation of onerous regulations on farmers, ranchers and landowners multiply at an alarming rate. I can assure you TSCRA will continue to closely watch these important matters and strive to keep our members informed, as well as listen to their concerns. TSCRA will always fight to protect the constitutional private property rights we hold dear as citizens of this great land.
Editor’s note: The above op-ed was penned with the assistance of Laramie Adams, Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association’s director of public affairs.