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.