Texas Agriculture April 15, 2016 : Page 7

6WDWHRIÀFHV&#0f;FRQJUHVVPHQOHQGVXSSRUWWR5HG5LYHU%/0ODZVXLW By Jessica Domel News Editor A lawsuit challenging the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and its claim on 116 miles of private property along the Texas-Oklahoma border is gaining support. In late March, U.S. Representa-tive Mac Thornberry, who repre-sents the area in Washington, D.C., filed an amicus brief in federal court supporting the landowners suing the BLM. “There are really two paths to fight the BLM on the Red River. One is the legislation that Senator (John) Cornyn and I have pushed and that has already passed the House,” Thornberry said in a state-ment. “The other is through the courts and the lawsuits.” Thornberry was joined by Texas Senators Cornyn and Ted Cruz, along with 19 U.S. congressmen from Texas. The brief, according to Thornber-ry, makes it clear to the courts the BLM has “exceeded its authority under the law.” “Hopefully, there will be a favor-able resolution on the lawsuit. In the meantime, we’re going to keep pushing legislation,” Thornberry said. The brief states the BLM over-stepped its constitutional and legal authorities by “arbitrarily claiming thousands of privately owned acres of land along the Red River in Tex-as.” It goes on to say the BLM incor-rectly applied a gradient boundary survey method in violation of a pre-vious Supreme Court ruling on the matter and violates the long-estab-lished responsibility of the federal government to protect private prop-erty rights. The BLM’s claim on the land, which has been treated as private property for decades, clouds title to that private property. Thus prevent-ing officials in Wichita, Wilbarger and Clay counties from successfully fulfilling their duties to provide ser-vices such as first responders in an case to challenge the BLM’s “uncon-stitutional seizure and arbitrary taking of private property owners’ and Texas Permanent School Fund land along the Red River.” “The announcement by the U.S. District Court validates our asser-tion that we must stand up to the BLM’s continued attempts to un-lawfully take privately and pub-licly owned lands. When it comes to property rights, don’t mess with Texas. Ever,” Bush said. AG Ken Paxton joined the law-suit in mid-March stating the suit seeks to “establish recognition of our state’s rightful boundary by challenging federal encroachment on Texas land near the Red River.” “Washington, D.C. needs to hear, loud and clear, that Texas will not stand for the federal government’s infringement upon Texas land and the property rights of the people who live here,” Paxton said in a statement. “The federal government must follow the law and recognize our correct borders, consistent with decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court defining the boundary formed by the Red River.” The lawsuit against the BLM names not only the agency but also its director, Neil Konze; the U.S. De-partment of Interior; Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell; and the United States of America. Plaintiffs also include Kenneth Aderholt, Patrick Canan, Kevin Hunter, Ronald Jackson, William Lalk, Kenneth and Barbara Patton, Jimmy Smith, Clay County Sher-iff Kenneth Lemons Jr., Wichita County, Clay County and Wilbarger County. Texas Farm Bureau (TFB) is concerned about the rights of those property owners and is monitoring the litigation on behalf of its mem-bers. TFB favors a legislative solution to the issue, authored by Cornyn and Thornberry, but unwelcome amendments to the House-passed bill make this litigation even more important. A 116-mile stretch of private property along the Texas-Oklahoma border continues to be at the center of a lawsuit. emergency. The brief explains the BLM’s ac-tions along the Red River could ex-pand beyond the 116 miles that are now in question and could threaten private property rights in other ar-eas if the BLM’s “unlawful” survey methods are allowed to prevail. Landowners along the 116-mile stretch of the Red River claimed by BLM learned of the federal claim on the land at a public meeting in Wichita Falls. There, the BLM claimed about 90,000 acres of land in the stretch that could be considered public land, which would fall under the agency’s purview. That estimate has now been cut to about 30,000 acres of land, ac-cording to information from Thorn-berry’s office. BLM’s claim includes homes, farm land, ranch land and, in many cases, property that has been kept as private property in a family for generations. Their claim, according to the BLM, stems from a 1920s court deci-sion that gave the U.S. government rights to a narrow strip of land be-tween the Oklahoma and Texas bor-ders along the river. Because the Red River shifts with time, BLM claims the land they con-trol has expanded to the area in question. Legislation by Thornberry and Cornyn protecting the private prop-erty in question passed the U.S. House. It awaits Senate consider-ation. Congress isn’t the only agency working to help landowners along the Red River. The Texas General Land Office (GLO) and the state attorney gen-eral (AG) have both been granted permission to join the suit, along with the landowners, counties and the Clay County sheriff. The GLO was permitted to join the suit to protect its reserved min-eral interests in public school land in Wilbarger County. “As a matter of principle, our standing in this lawsuit is clear: The land office has the responsibil-ity to defend Texas’ mineral rights on behalf of our school children,” Land Commissioner George P. Bush said in a statement. “As your land commissioner, this is a duty that I take very seriously. Texas constitu-tionally dedicates this land to the Permanent School Fund and the mineral interests benefit the pub-lic school children across our great state.” Bush filed the intervention in the A PRIL 15, 2016 7

State Offices, Congressmen Lend Support to Red River/BLM Lawsuit

Jessica Domel

A lawsuit challenging the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and its claim on 116 miles of private property along the Texas-Oklahoma border is gaining support.

In late March, U.S. Representative Mac Thornberry, who represents the area in Washington, D.C., filed an amicus brief in federal court supporting the landowners suing the BLM.

“There are really two paths to fight the BLM on the Red River. One is the legislation that Senator (John) Cornyn and I have pushed and that has already passed the House,” Thornberry said in a statement. “The other is through the courts and the lawsuits.”

Thornberry was joined by Texas Senators Cornyn and Ted Cruz, along with 19 U.S. congressmen from Texas.

The brief, according to Thornberry, makes it clear to the courts the BLM has “exceeded its authority under the law.”

“Hopefully, there will be a favorable resolution on the lawsuit. In the meantime, we’re going to keep pushing legislation,” Thornberry said.

The brief states the BLM overstepped its constitutional and legal authorities by “arbitrarily claiming thousands of privately owned acres of land along the Red River in Texas.”

It goes on to say the BLM incorrectly applied a gradient boundary survey method in violation of a previous Supreme Court ruling on the matter and violates the long-established responsibility of the federal government to protect private property rights.

The BLM’s claim on the land, which has been treated as private property for decades, clouds title to that private property. Thus preventing officials in Wichita, Wilbarger and Clay counties from successfully fulfilling their duties to provide services such as first responders in an emergency.

The brief explains the BLM’s actions along the Red River could expand beyond the 116 miles that are now in question and could threaten private property rights in other areas if the BLM’s “unlawful” survey methods are allowed to prevail.

Landowners along the 116-mile stretch of the Red River claimed by BLM learned of the federal claim on the land at a public meeting in Wichita Falls.

There, the BLM claimed about 90,000 acres of land in the stretch that could be considered public land, which would fall under the agency’s purview.

That estimate has now been cut to about 30,000 acres of land, according to information from Thornberry’s office.

BLM’s claim includes homes, farm land, ranch land and, in many cases, property that has been kept as private property in a family for generations.

Their claim, according to the BLM, stems from a 1920s court decision that gave the U.S. government rights to a narrow strip of land between the Oklahoma and Texas borders along the river.

Because the Red River shifts with time, BLM claims the land they control has expanded to the area in question.

Legislation by Thornberry and Cornyn protecting the private property in question passed the U.S. House. It awaits Senate consideration.

Congress isn’t the only agency working to help landowners along the Red River.

The Texas General Land Office (GLO) and the state attorney general (AG) have both been granted permission to join the suit, along with the landowners, counties and the Clay County sheriff.

The GLO was permitted to join the suit to protect its reserved mineral interests in public school land in Wilbarger County.

“As a matter of principle, our standing in this lawsuit is clear: The land office has the responsibility to defend Texas’ mineral rights on behalf of our school children,” Land Commissioner George P. Bush said in a statement. “As your land commissioner, this is a duty that I take very seriously. Texas constitutionally dedicates this land to the Permanent School Fund and the mineral interests benefit the public school children across our great state.”

Bush filed the intervention in the case to challenge the BLM’s “unconstitutional seizure and arbitrary taking of private property owners’ and Texas Permanent School Fund land along the Red River.”

“The announcement by the U.S. District Court validates our assertion that we must stand up to the BLM’s continued attempts to unlawfully take privately and publicly owned lands. When it comes to property rights, don’t mess with Texas. Ever,” Bush said.

AG Ken Paxton joined the lawsuit in mid-March stating the suit seeks to “establish recognition of our state’s rightful boundary by challenging federal encroachment on Texas land near the Red River.”

“Washington, D.C. needs to hear, loud and clear, that Texas will not stand for the federal government’s infringement upon Texas land and the property rights of the people who live here,” Paxton said in a statement. “The federal government must follow the law and recognize our correct borders, consistent with decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court defining the boundary formed by the Red River.”

The lawsuit against the BLM names not only the agency but also its director, Neil Konze; the U.S. Department of Interior; Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell; and the United States of America.

Plaintiffs also include Kenneth Aderholt, Patrick Canan, Kevin Hunter, Ronald Jackson, William Lalk, Kenneth and Barbara Patton, Jimmy Smith, Clay County Sheriff Kenneth Lemons Jr., Wichita County, Clay County and Wilbarger County.

Texas Farm Bureau (TFB) is concerned about the rights of those property owners and is monitoring the litigation on behalf of its members.

TFB favors a legislative solution to the issue, authored by Cornyn and Thornberry, but unwelcome amendments to the House-passed bill make this litigation even more important.

Read the full article at http://texasagriculture.texasfarmbureau.org/article/State+Offices%2C+Congressmen+Lend+Support+to+Red+RiverBLM+Lawsuit/2454636/297767/article.html.

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