The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation on Wednesday to help Texas property owners in their battle with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) over 90,000 acres of land. The White House has threatened to veto the bill which now moves on to the Senate.
The Red River Private Property Rights Act (H.R. 2130) was passed by the House in a 253-177 vote. The bill was authored by U.S. Representative Mac Thornberry and had previously passed favorably from the House Committee on Natural Resources.
“The ‘Red River Private Property Protection Act’ stops the Bureau of Land Management’s unwanted, unwarranted attempt to seize thousands of acres of land from American citizens in Texas and Oklahoma who have owned and paid taxes on the land for decades,” Chairman Rob Bishop said in a statement obtained by Breitbart Texas. “The right to private property is a fundamental pillar of a free and prosperous country and H.R. 2130 secures that right. I commend Rep. Thornberry for his leadership and applaud the House of Representatives for passing this important legislation.”
Speaking on the House floor before the vote, Representative Thornberry said, “The only way to prevent the BLM from taking this land in a timely way without years of court battles is to pass this legislation.” The bill requires a proper survey of the disputed 116-mile region along the Texas/Oklahoma border and an equitable solution for landowners who might be adversely affected.
“This is a big victory for the landowners along the Red River and also for property owners everywhere who deserve to know that the federal government cannot come in and take away what they own. I hope we can use this momentum to get the bill passed in the Senate and then signed into law by the President,” Thornberry said in a statement obtained by Breitbart Texas.
The bill now moves to the U.S. Senate where Majority Whip John Cornyn stands ready to take the baton for the Texas landowners involved in the dispute.
“Texas families that have owned land along the Red River for generations deserve certainty that their property rights will be protected from overreach by the Obama Administration,” Senator Cornyn said in a statement obtained by Breitbart Texas. “Today’s vote is a positive step toward ensuring the federal government’s land claims are restrained and Texas landowner rights are protected.”
In introducing the bill in the Senate, Sen. Cornyn laid out the following key points of the legislation which will help private property owners by:
- Commissioning a survey of the entire 116-mile stretch of contested area along the Red River using the gradient boundary survey method, developed and backed by the Supreme Court, to find the proper boundary between Texas and Oklahoma.
- Ordering that the survey be conducted by Licensed State Land Surveyors chosen by the Texas General Land Office, and the final survey must ultimately be approved by the State.
- Allowing landowners who hold the proper right, title, and/or interest in the contested area to appeal any further public domain claims by BLM through an Administrative Law Judge.
- Preventing any contested land from being included in the Resource Management Plan until the survey is complete and private land is no longer subject to an appeal.
- Requiring BLM to sell off the surface rights of the remaining publicly owned land at fair market value after the proper boundary line is located and settled. The bill also explicitly states that the interest of the states and the sovereignty rights of the federally recognized Indian tribes north of the Texas State boundary line will not be affected.
The White House has threatened to veto the bill if it reaches the president’s desk. Representative Thornberry said if the president follows through on the veto, there are a variety of other methods to get the bill passed, including attaching it to a larger piece of legislation. “We’ll just take this one step at a time,” Thornberry said.
“The step the House has taken today has been a major step forward in getting this resolved once and for all,” the Texas representative concluded.
Readers can learn more about the on-going battle with the BLM by reading Breitbart Texas’ extensive coverage on the issue.
Bob Price serves as associate editor and senior political news contributor for Breitbart Texas and is a member of the original Breitbart Texas team. Follow him on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX.