WICHITA FALLS, TEXAS–The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) responded quickly to Breitbart Texas’ interview with Northwest Texas Boy Scouts Council President Wayne Mansur. In the interview, Mansur raised his concern that his Scout group could lose up to one-third of their Camp Perkins land which could force the closure of the camp that serves thousands of Scouts and Camp Fire children.
Paul McGuire, Public Relations Specialist for the BLM district office called Breitbart Texas after reviewing the interview. He expressed his gratitude for the opportunity yesterday to speak with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, the ranchers and members of the public at the public information event hosted by the Texas Farm Bureau and rancher Tommy Henderson. Following are McGuire’s comments in reaction to the interview:
Unless or until a survey of the land is done, we cannot know for certain what land falls within the public domain. The only thing we know at this early stage of the planning process is what the Supreme Court held in 1923, which is that the public domain lands fall along the river between the medial line and the south gradient bank. As we’ve noted before, no surveys are currently planned or funded, nor can they be until a final Resource Management Plan is in place. That’s what this entire process is intended to achieve: a planning document that will allow the agency to precisely determine land status (public or private) and work with interested and affected public to achieve the greatest good.
The BLM has no interest in dispossessing anyone of their private property. Any suggestion to the contrary is simply false (and incendiary). The best way to ensure that stakeholders’ interests are preserved is through direct dialogue and participation in the public planning process. Talking past one another through the media is not the most productive exercise.
BLM has many legal tools available to work with organizations like the Boy Scouts. The agency would not pursue any outcome that would work to their detriment. On the contrary, the agency would be very interested in partnering with the Boy Scouts to maximize the value of these lands for their benefit and that of the broader public.
Breitbart Texas reached out to Wayne Mansur and Land Commissioner Patterson for their response to McGuire’s comments.
Mansur took umbrage with the BLM’s take on the matter, arguing that if the federal agency had proper rights to manage the land on behalf of the public, “they had an obligation 90 years ago to inform property owners they were encroaching upon BLM land.” He further questioned the timing of a new planning agenda, arguing the BLM “did not do their job for 90 years and now they propose to potentially take land for the public interest…Their failure to do their job is harming property owners now.”
The Boy Scout leader questioned the BLM’s authenticity when claiming zero interest in dispossessing private property owners. Mansur further asked why the federal agency never engaged in “direct dialogue” with stakeholders like the Scouts or neighboring ranchers.
BLM Field Manager Steve Tryon sought to assuage the local Boy Scout’s concerns in a statement to Breitbart Texas.
“The statement from the Boy Scouts is exactly what the BLM would like to hear throughout its planning process–finding the best uses for the public land in the Red River area,” Tryon said. “While it is not clear that any public land is included within the boundary of Camp Perkins, the BLM has a long and successful history of working with the Boy Scouts of America in Oklahoma and elsewhere to lease or patent land for Scout camps under the Recreation and Public Purposes Act. …[I]f it is found that any of the land the Boy Scouts are using is Federal public land, the BLM will gladly work with the BSA to formally authorize existing uses.”
Texas Land Commissioner Patterson told Breitbart Texas, “Unless and until a survey of the land is done, we cannot know for certain what land falls within the public domain. I think the cart is being put before the horse. Wouldn’t it be best to know what, if any, land might be in the public domain before planning how to use it? This is indicative of the BLM’s belief, without proof I might add, that the BLM owns land, and their unsubstantiated conclusion that the movement of the river channel northward over a century ago was the result of an avulsive event.”
Breitbart Texas recently discussed the overall issue at length with Texas Land Commissioner Patterson. The interview involving the larger matter and the history leading up to the disagreement has been posted below.
Follow Bob Price on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX
Logan Churchwell contributed to this report.