Has Uncle Sam become a land grabber?

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.

Gene Hall

Public Relations Director
Texas Farm Bureau
I believe that the only hope for a food secure world is capitalism and reasonable profits for America’s farm and ranch families–that the first element of sustainability is economic survival.
Follow Gene on Twitter and Facebook.

9 Responses to “Has Uncle Sam become a land grabber?”

  1. Robert Domitz says:

    Gene,

    The Federal Government, and especially the Bureau of Land Management, has a long history of stealing land, all the way back before 1800. Just ask the Native Americans….

  2. I am unsure as to the specifics of law regarding public input meetings the BLM is required to hold in such cases, but in an interview by Robert Pratt, http://www.prattontexas.com Mac Thornberry mentioned he had found that rather than hold such public meetings in towns nearby the area of the land grab (Vernon, Henrietta et al), where the public would be more inclined to have a negative view of such thievery, BLM has developed an interesting habit of soliciting public input from outdoor enthusiast groups and organizations in regional population centers somewhat geographically removed from local interested parties. Naturally suburban dwelling Texans who enjoy camping, riding club members and hiking enthusiast, et.c. would be excited to have more accessible public land in our state.

    There is a question as to whether BLM properly publicizes their public meetings, as well.

    If this is true, I believe this tactic is completely antithetical to the basis for which the concept of “public meetings” in such matters was devised to accomplish.

    Congressman Thornberry claims to have received a formal reply from BLM to his inquiry on this usurpation of property rights, only to inadvertently discover that BLM’s formal reply to him was far less than truthful.

    If U.S. Congressmen cannot make inquiries of Fed agencies fully expecting to receive honest, complete, non-nuanced answers, making the assumption that these matters will be solved without confrontation may be quite optimistic.

    The American entrepreneur is sick to death of bankrupting, ten year running court battles with Fed agencies heavily anointed with taxpayer cash to purchase the most intrepid Leftist legal representation possible – when our federal and state constitutions are not that complicated.

    “The system (the Founding Fathers) established was not based on unlimited majority rule, but on its opposite; on individual rights, which were not to be alienated by majority vote or minority plotting. The individual was not left to the mercy of his neighbors or his leaders; the Constitutional system of checks and balances was scientifically devised to protect him from both.”

  3. Erik McCowan says:

    There are many questions you leave unanswered:
    What is the background of the land in question?
    What is the official stance of BLM?
    There is more land than this involved, what is the rest of the story?
    What are both sides of the story?
    I doubt that the government is working in the dark. I have looked into this a bit, and there is more here that has been reported than you imply. Are you sensationalizing this just a bit for personal/business/political gain maybe? Let’s get all the facts out there before we run to cable television again.

    • Mike Barnett says:

      No one is running to cable television. They are coming to Texas Farm Bureau; perhaps, because, the BLM is not talking to them? I do know that our farm organization is standing firm for Texas property rights and Texas landowners–who have deeds to the land, paid taxes, taken care of it for generations and had it taken away. Classify that how you may.

    • Gene Hall says:

      Eric, sorry, I will be running to cable very soon. To be clear, this is a blog. By definition, my opinion, though I believe every single word to be true. This space is open to BLM if they want to comment, but I am under no obligation to make their case for them.

      Just sayin’

  4. Tom Williams says:

    I would like to express my thoughts on the article on pages 16 and 17 of the May 16th edition of Texas Agriculture. First I would say that it makes me proud when my fellow Texans stand up together against an over reach of power by the Federal Government.
    Secondly, the BLM spokesman Paul McGuire is a little mixed up about the facts. Yes, the Louisiana Purchase did happen in 1803. However, Texas was not part of that real estate deal. At the time Texas was part of Mexico. And yes the Red River’s course has shifted both North and South over the years. Does this mean that when the river shifts South that the land on the Oklahoma side is still part of Texas? Also, there is nothing in the U.S. Constitution giving the government the mandate to be in the real estate business. The land bought from France in 1803 was bought with tax payer dollars and was bought with the express intent of selling it to the settlers as they migrated West. Mr. McGuire also stated the land in question was part of the public domain since it was purchased in 1803. So was all of Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Minnesota, and so on. Will the BLM be seizing all of the land that was purchased in 1803? If not, then why the land along the Red River in Texas?
    Lastly, under the U.S. Constitution, all property taken by the Federal Government must be paid for at fair market value. It the farmers and ranchers that are losing their land are not being compensated for their loss, then the feds don’t have a leg to stand on. Also, the taking of land has to be for emanate domain purposes. I don’t believe that the land in question is being taken for any public projects. So just what is the purpose of this land being taken?
    It is interesting that the Federal Government stopped the Homestead Act in the 1930′s and still maintains ownership of a large part of the West.

  5. Tom Williams says:

    First I would say that it makes me proud when my fellow Texans stand up together against an over reach of power by the Federal Government.
    Secondly, the BLM spokesman Paul McGuire is a little mixed up about the facts. Yes, the Louisiana Purchase did happen in 1803. However, Texas was not part of that real estate deal. At the time Texas was part of Mexico. And yes the Red River’s course has shifted both North and South over the years. Does this mean that when the river shifts South that the land on the Oklahoma side is still part of Texas? Also, there is nothing in the U.S. Constitution giving the government the mandate to be in the real estate business. The land bought from France in 1803 was bought with tax payer dollars and was bought with the express intent of selling it to the settlers as they migrated West. Mr. McGuire also stated the land in question was part of the public domain since it was purchased in 1803. So was all of Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Minnesota, and so on. Will the BLM be seizing all of the land that was purchased in 1803? If not, then why the land along the Red River in Texas?
    Lastly, under the U.S. Constitution, all property taken by the Federal Government must be paid for at fair market value. It the farmers and ranchers that are losing their land are not being compensated for their loss, then the feds don’t have a leg to stand on. Also, the taking of land has to be for emanate domain purposes. I don’t believe that the land in question is being taken for any public projects. So just what is the purpose of this land being taken?
    It is interesting that the Federal Government stopped the Homestead Act in the 1930′s and still maintains ownership of a large part of the West.

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