By Gene Hall
As I sat waiting to be interviewed for On the Record with Greta Van Susteren on Fox News Tuesday, I was amazed at how quickly outrage over a wrong can build.
It started with a video produced by my team, questioning the intent of the federal government to take private property on the Texas side of the Red River. The video went viral and, for the first time in 30 years, we have the attention of officials from Washington to Austin focused on a federal land grab.
As for the 116 miles the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) appears to be claiming, BLM says they “categorically have no intention of expanding federal lands.”
This is doublespeak at which some federal agencies have become expert. BLM has “no intention of expanding” because, in their view, they already own the land being actively farmed by Texas owners who believe it’s theirs. BLM took Tommy Henderson’s land in 1984, without compensation, and apparently thinks that is a precedent to claim similar property along the river. Of course, the Texans who have been paying taxes all this time were never told. They believed a deed protected them from an aggressive federal agency. Some of them are still paying off loans on land the BLM now claims.
Tommy Henderson says that the BLM has done nothing with the land they took from him. He never received compensation. Neither will the farmers and ranchers in the path of government intent now.
How can this be? It appears our federal government is little more than a “claim jumper.” Greg Abbott, the Texas Attorney General running for governor, has become a key player in this ugly issue. He has filed 30 lawsuits against the feds and might well go after them again.
This is Texas, where 97 percent of property is privately owned. We like it that way. There is no compelling reason for the BLM to claim this land. What is it they want there and don’t want to pay for? Water? Minerals?
Americans will see this as action by a government agency that has abandoned any pretense about dealing with citizens fairly. Texas farmers and ranchers want to solve this properly, in the courts, in Congress and in the court of public opinion—not with confrontation. They are acting much more honorably than the BLM.