Time to straighten out this BLM mess

By Gene Hall

I own your house. In fact, I have always owned it. It does not matter that you have a deed or stacks of property tax receipts. It is not relevant whether or not you paid for this house.

I also own most of the houses on your street. Your neighbors, too, might have paid mortgages and taxes, but that does not matter. Rest assured, though, I am not “expanding my holdings” on your street, but only because I have always owned it. My name is Federal Bureau of Land Management.

This is not an eminent domain case. Since I own it already, I do not owe any compensation. I am conducting hearings to allow others to decide how I will use your house. You may comment. It’s possible you can lease it from me. It might work out for you to buy it back from me. This should satisfy any concerns you have about your house. Remember, it’s not yours. It’s mine.

Outrageous? Of course it is, but it’s happening now to Texas farmers along the Texas-Oklahoma border. Clay County, Texas farmer Tommy Henderson lost a court case in 1984 and about 130 acres of land he had bought and farmed wound up in federal hands. That case is now part of a federal claim to about 90,000 additional acres along 116 miles of the Red River. The trouble is that land, too, is being farmed or ranched. There are more deeds—more property tax receipts.

At first, BLM released vague statements that the agency was not planning to “extend federal holdings” there. Later, they claimed that it was settled that they do in fact own the land, citing a court case from the 1920s. Why were those who farmed the land allowed to continue making payments, paying taxes, farming and living there?

There is that 1994 document in which BLM said a legislative solution would be needed to determine what land was in the public domain. Maybe they were waiting for that. Or maybe they didn’t want the visuals of forcing family farmers from their land.

This is a mess. The public is watching. Let’s straighten it out.

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.

7 Responses to “Time to straighten out this BLM mess”

  1. Erik McCowan says:

    Yes, it appears that they are “straightening it out,” as you say. A deeper delve into the facts on both sides proves that this topic is a muddled mess, BUT it appears both sides, as well as Republican State Representatives are on their way to working this out properly, cordially, professionally. Now, this may not be as speedy of a response as you wish, Gene, but since you are a PR director, it is your job to stir things up for one side or the other to gain a bit of traction for your organization. I hate to inform, but as much as you or anyone wishes this to be another Cliven Bundy spectacle, cooler heads are prevailing and things are being worked out. That’s why it has slid from the headlines, weather you like it or not.

    Read more, independently, and this story isn’t so sensational as you imply.

    • Gene Hall says:

      Yes, Erik, it is being “worked on” if not yet worked out. Texas Farm Bureau is involved and will continue to be. You’ve not seen anything I’ve said or written encouraging a comparison of this situation to what happened in Nevada. That was not a solution. That was a spectacle. We and I have said the opposite. You are correct in one thing. If the farmers and ranchers who paid for this land, paid property taxes on in for generations and raised crops and families there are not treated fairly…it is my job to point that out. We have asked for Texas state officials to be involved. In fact, we also appreciate the positions of Texas Democrats who voiced support for the farmers and ranchers. If full disclosure is necessary, here it is. I am not a journalist. I write from a point of view. That POV is that of the farm and ranch families of Texas.

  2. Keith Welch says:

    Uncle Sam it’s time to back off leave peoples property alone. It is beginning to sound like we are in some other countrys that take whatever they want from their citizens when they want what others have. You are crossing over on our rights as citizens.

  3. LaVoy Finicum says:

    I would like to support you in your efforts

  4. E.Mancuso says:

    Thanks for bringing this to those who are unaware of this outrageous situation.

  5. The existence of public land along the southern half of the Red River between the 98th meridian and the North Fork was affirmed by the Supreme Court in the 1920s. While the Red River Boundary Compact of 2000 adjusted the border between Texas and Oklahoma, it did not affect public or private land holdings in or along the river. The key question, therefore, is: Where precisely is the “south gradient boundary” that delineates between public land in the river bed and private land on the south bank. Somehow this question has been distorted into the suggestion that BLM is seeking a “land grab,” because there is some uncertainty as to whether certain private deeds may extend into the public corridor. BLM is simply undertaking a planning effort to determine how (or whether) public land in that corridor should be managed. One outcome of this planning effort will be to create conditions whereby any ownership claims or conflicts can be resolved. This is a fully open and public process guided by law. It should not be guided by fear or distrust but by cooperation.

    • Gene Hall says:

      Paul, thank you for coming to the blog and participating in the conversation. Most of the talk is on the Facebook and Twitter pages, but people do read it here, too. Of course, in speaking with the affected landowners a quite different story emerges, and some of them are very familiar with all aspects of the story. I look forward to meetings between the landowners and BLM. If the cooperation of which you speak results in those farm and ranch families, with deeds and tax receipts on the acres involved, being treated fairly, then I look forward to publicly congratulating BLM. If we can get to that point, cooperation will be easy. Again, thanks for the post.

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