BLM Doubles Down on Texas Land: It's Ours for 'Planning'

MCALLEN, Texas—U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Director Neil Kornze responded to the April letters from Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) and Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) about the Red River land dispute between the federal government and the State of Texas. The letter comes approximately two months after the initial requests from Abbott and Cruz were submitted to the director and largely doubles down on broad claims of federal ownership.

On April 22, Breitbart Texas, in an exclusive interview with Gen. Abbott, revealed the letter sent to Director Kornze requesting clarification about the BLM’s position about the disputed land ownership along the Red River north of Wichita Falls, Texas.

In the letter, Gen. Abbott details five issues for the BLM to address:

  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.

Senator Cruz, in his letter to Kornze, reiterated Abbott’s points from his letter and added his own inquiry:

“Please confirm that BLM does not take the position that it has rights to ownership or control of any of the 90,000 acres of land along the Red River that are at the center of this controversy or similarly situated land. If it claims any such rights, please identify with specificity the acreage, location and legal basis for claiming those rights.”

Kornze narrows down Abbott’s letter to two issues. “(I) the Resource Management Plan/Environmental lmpact Statement process, and (2) ownership interests of the United States and adjacent landowners in the area. I appreciate the opportunity to offer clarification.”

Kornze’s letter explains the BLM’s procedures for developing its new Resource Management Planning (RMP) process.  To summarize, the RMP/EIS process is designed to establish general management goals, objectives, and directives for public resources,” Kornze begins in the letter, “including lands and minerals, managed by the BLM. The process involves numerous steps that allow for public input, analysis, and informed decision-making with regard to public resources.”

“In order to ensure the appropriate consistency with other governmental planning efforts,” Kornze explained, “the BLM invited local, state, Federal, and tribal representatives to participate as cooperating agencies in the preparation of the BLM's RMP/EIS.”

As to the assertion of ownership of the disputed land along the Red River, Director Kornze appears to be standing with the position that the BLM has always owned this land. “According to the plain terms of Article VII,” Kornze states in the letter, “the Compact ‘does not change: ( I) the title of any person or entity, public or private, to any of the lands adjacent to the Red River; (2) the rights, including riparian rights, of any person or entity, public or private, that exist as a result of the person' s or entity's title to lands adjacent to the Red River; or (3) the boundaries of those lands.’ Therefore, any shifts in the boundary between Texas and Oklahoma as a result of the Compact may mean that public lands that are owned by the United States now are within Texas that were formerly in Oklahoma.”

Kornze concluded, “The BLM will determine the uses and extent of these public lands through the current public planning process and any necessary surveys.”

Gen. Abbott told Breitbart Texas, "The BLM's recent letter fails to answer the questions that I and many Texans have about the BLM’s seeming land grab along the Red River. It is still unclear what area along the Red River the BLM is attempting to lay claim to, under what authority, and how the BLM intends to treat the Texans who have for generations considered the land private property. The BLM’s inadequate response will force Texas to pursue other options to obtain the needed information -- including litigation if needed."

Bob Price is a staff writer and a member of the original Breitbart Texas team. Follow him on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX.

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