Texas AG Wades into Court Battle over Feds’ Red River ‘Land Grab’

File Photo: Max Faulkner/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT via Getty Images

The Texas Attorney General announced on Wednesday that their office has intervened in a federal lawsuit about the “Red River Land Grab.” The State will challenge federal encroachment onto privately-owned land and seeks to establish a more accurate recognition of the boundary between Texas and Oklahoma.

“The borders of any state are a fundamental expression of its sovereignty, and are established through extensive surveys and legal precedent,” Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement obtained by Breitbart Texas. “We will not allow the federal government to arbitrarily infringe upon Texas land and undermine the private property rights of our citizens. 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.”

Bureau of Land Management (BLM) spokesman Paul McGuire, responding to an inquiry from Breitbart Texas, said he could not comment on pending litigation. He offered the following general statement, “BLM remains committed to working with adjacent landowners, counties and other stakeholders through our ongoing planning process to properly identify the extent of federal holdings in the Red River. We share the interest of all parties in clarifying ownership and identifying appropriate management alternatives.”

Since April, 2014, Breitbart Texas has reported extensively on what has become known as the “Red River Land Grab.” The BLM claims that nearly 90,000 acres of land along the Red River state boundary actually belongs to the federal government. Private property owners for generations have believed that land to be their own and they have been paying taxes on the land.

On April 22, 2014, then Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (now Texas’ governor) said, “I am about ready to go to the Red River and raise a ‘Come and Take It’ flag to tell the feds to stay out of Texas,” during an exclusive interview with Breitbart Texas. “This is the latest line of attack by the Obama Administration where it seems like they have a complete disregard for the rule of law in this country… And now they’ve crossed the line quite literally by coming into the State of Texas and trying to claim Texas land as federal land. And, as the Attorney General of Texas I am not going to allow this.”

Many state officials have requested a survey be conducted by the BLM to clearly define the boundaries between the two states and to clearly define claims of any land ownership by the BLM.

“The BLM’s failure and refusal to conduct a proper and complete boundary survey along the Red River directly injures the state’s ability to demand recognition of its boundary,” General Paxton wrote in his statement on Wednesday. “The federal government’s inaccurate and arbitrary claim to land located in Texas conflicts with the requirements of the U.S. Supreme Court.”

“Pursuant to various U.S. Supreme Court cases in the 1920’s, the federal government only has rights to a narrow part of the Red River up to its southern bank,” The Texas AG’s statement continues. “The federal government, however, claims that it owns up to 90,000 acres of Texas property along 117 miles of the Red River, much of it miles from the banks of the Red River.”

Governor Abbott came back to the issue of the disputed Red River land after becoming governor and completing the legislative session. He followed up on his original letter to the BLM he wrote while serving as the Texas Attorney General and said, “The BLM should demonstrate that the federal government still respects private property rights and end this unconscionable land grab.”

There has been some progress in the on-going land dispute. In August, 2015, Breitbart Texas reported that rancher Tommy Henderson was able to regain control and use of his land that had been taken from him in a 1984 federal court decision. He was forced to pay a statutory fee of $1.25 per acre and was awarded custody of his land through a “color of title” application.

Even that process took a lot of time, Henderson told Breitbart Texas at the time. He said the land had to be checked for endangered species and other environmental issues before a new deed could be issued. “That added several more months to the process,” he said. Other bureaucratic processes continued to pop up along the way.

General Paxton is the latest Texas official to get involved in this dispute. Congressman Mac Thornberry has been the point person for the landowners in trying to move legislation through Congress and in dealing with the BLM. Former Lt. Governor David Dewhurst and former General Land Office Commissioner Jerry Patterson worked for years on the disputed state boundaries. Other public officials who have assisted Texans are Senator John Cornyn, Senator Ted Cruz, and Texas State Senator Craig Estes.

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