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Red River land grab lands BLM in hot water

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The U.S. Bureau of Land Management might consider itself warned on the need to choose wisely one’s battles and be reminded that it’s never a good time, as the saying goes, to mess with Texas. As concerned Texas residents await clarification from the BLM on reports that the federal agency may claim 90,000 acres of privately-held land on the Texas side of the Red River border between Texas and Oklahoma, fierce response from state officials, government watchdog groups and affected parties suggests this Red River land grab will happen neither quickly nor quietly.

In a letter to BLM Director Neil Kornze, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott wrote:

Respect for property rights and the rule of law are fundamental principles in the State of Texas and the United States. When governments simply ignore those principles, it threatens the foundation of our free and prosperous society. That is why I am deeply concerned about reports that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is considering taking property in the State of Texas and that it now claims belongs to the federal government. Given the seriousness of this situation, I feel compelled to seek answers regarding the BLM’s intentions and legal authority with respect to Texas territory adjacent to the Red River.

Abbott, also a candidate seeking the office being vacated by Gov. Rick Perry, noted reports from BLM field hearings indicating potential federal government plans to claim 90,000 acres along a 116-mile stretch of the Red River.

In terming this action a threat to the private property rights of hard-working Texans along the Red River, he argued how private landowners have “owned, maintained, and cultivated this land for generations.” Abbott further stated, “Yet, the BLM has failed to disclose either its full intentions or the legal justification for its proposed actions. Decisions of this magnitude must not be made inside a bureaucratic black box.”

With this issue being “long-settled,” Abbott recapped the legal and legislative history of this border stretch including the 2000 ratification of the Red River Boundary Compact concluding that based on this agreement, “it is not at all clear what legal basis supports the BLM’s claim of federal ownership over private property that abuts the Red River in the State of Texas.”

Upon reiterating his deep concern “about the notion that the BLM believes the federal government has the authority to swoop in and take land that has been owned and cultivated by Texas landowners for generations,” Abbott asked for prompt submission of the following information:

  1. Please delineate with specificity each of the steps for the RMP/EIS process for property along the Red River.
  2. Please describe the procedural due process the BLM will afford to Texans whose property may be claimed by the federal government.
  3. Please confirm whether the BLM agrees that, from 1923 until the ratification of the Red River Boundary Compact, the boundary between Texas and Oklahoma was the gradient line of the south bank of the Red River. To the extent the BLM does not agree, please provide legal analysis supporting the BLM’s position.
  4. Please confirm whether the BLM still considers Congress’ ratification of the Red River Boundary Compact as determinative of its interest in land along the Red River? To the extent the BLM does not agree, please provide legal analysis supporting the BLM’s new position.
  5. Please delineate with specificity the amount of Texas territory that would be impacted by the BLM’s decision to claim this private land as the property of the federal government.

Calling the BLM’s newly asserted land claims a threat that could “upset long-settled private property rights and undermine fundamental principles—including the rule of law—that form the foundation of our democracy,” Abbott asked for prompt disclosure of both the process BLM intends to follow and the legal justification for its position.

“I am about ready to go to the Red River and raise a ‘Come and Take It’ flag to tell the feds to stay out of Texas,” Abbott told Breitbart Texas.

Abbott shared additional comments Wednesday night on Fox News.

While Abbott stakes his position on the BLM’s proposed action, Perry, a potential 2016 presidential contender and the man Abbott seeks to follow into the governor’s office, is making his own headlines.

Also speaking Wednesday on Fox News, Perry discussed how “the federal government already owns too much land.” Expressing his agreement with Abbott, Perry said, “It’s not a dare, it’s a promise that we’re going to stand up for private property rights in the state of Texas.”

Politicians are weighing in on this issue, but so are citizens. A May 24 Gathering of the American Patriot Open Carry Rally is scheduled in Wichita Falls, about 15 miles from the Oklahoma border.

Organizers describe the event as “a rally to raise awareness of 2nd Amendment rights, specifically open carry, in Wichita Falls and as a show of solidarity with the ranchers on our northern border. This is an important event that is being planned in conjunction with the Wichita Falls Police Chief. Location will be updated when we have it confirmed.”

While the right to bear arms is an issue strongly supported by many Texans, the open carry issue is particularly prominent now as seen at a recent state Senate hearing called to address removing barriers to Second Amendment rights.

Second Amendment rights ensure the opportunity to protect one’s person, family and property from outside threats. The BLM’s pending land grab is a threat to the north Texas ranchers’ property and even their families as the land’s confiscation would likely also harm their livelihoods.

Using wisdom in choosing battles is important as also is timing. Abbott’s race for governor is its own fierce contest. Perry’s movement toward a presidential run will bring its own sparks. Challenges to property rights, civil liberties and the rule of law get Texans energized in extremely short order – especially after six years of the Obama administration.

A good time to mess with Texas probably never occurs, but some times are worse and the BLM seems poised to learn one of those times is now.

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