AUSTIN, TEXAS–The State of Texas has a response to the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) claim to ownership of the disputed 90,000 acres of land along the Texas/Oklahoma border – “Prove it.”
Texas General Land Office (GLO) Commissioner Jerry Patterson said the burden of proof is on the BLM to “prove up their claim” on land that Texas private property owners and the State of Texas claim as their own.
“Under virtually all laws, going back to Roman times, when rivers move boundaries change,” Commissioner Patterson explained. “That’s accepted law, no one disputes that.”
In probably the most detailed explanation of this controversial issue, Commissioner Patterson sat down in an exclusive interview with Breitbart Texas to discuss the unique historical and legal perspectives of what is perceived by many as a “land grab” by the federal government. As commissioner of the GLO, Patterson is the point person for Texas in terms of land issues before the BLM. Patterson’s representation responsibility includes both private owners and land or mineral interests owned by the State of Texas’ Permanent School Fund.
Patterson explained there are “three legal principles having to do with boundaries with bodies of water. They are erosion, accretion and avulsion.” Accretion and erosion occur as part of a natural process over an extended period of time. As a river moves through these processes, the boundaries of adjacent land change with the movement. Avulsion, on the other hand, occurs when the course of the river changes abruptly as in during a flood or other cataclysmic events. In these cases, the boundaries generally do not shift with the changing flow of the river.
“This boundary,” Patterson stated, “which was set as the south bank of the Red River by, initially in 1819 by a treaty between the Kingdom of Spain and the United States of America and then later by [U.S.] Supreme Court decisions is the south bank of the river and we’re really not disputing that. But that south bank of the Red River, as we know, it moves. Rivers move – especially rivers that meander such as this one.” In the video, Patterson explains how the various types of river movement are affected in legal terms of state boundaries and property ownership.
“Avulsion,” which Patterson states the BLM will have to prove occurred in order to substantiate its ownership claims, “does not change boundaries riparian law, and this is river law which is called riparian law.”
Illustrating on a detailed surface map in the video, Patterson explained, “The bank of the river is no longer here, the bank of the river is over here somewhere. The question becomes [from a legal perspective] did it move by an avulsive event or was it a gradual erosion event? And, that is a very important question.”
“The bottom line is,” Patterson stated, “the BLM always assumes that it’s avulsive when it works to their advantage and that it’s erosion when it works to their advantage. In our view, here at the [General] Land Office, is you’ve got to prove it. You can’t just say [waving his hand over the map] ‘We call this avulsion. We now own that’.”
“It’s a matter of proving it up, which would require an on-the-ground survey, a very expensive, very lengthy, 116 miles of riverfront in question survey. You just can’t come along and say it’s mine.”
Patterson, being an avid scholar of Texas history, takes viewers through a very interesting historical look at how this unique situation developed and why this particular section of land is now in so much controversy as to who has rightful ownership.