Red River Victory: TFB member regains lost land from U.S. government
(Byers, Texas)–After 30 years and a year-and-a-half long battle, Clay County farmer Tommy Henderson has regained an integral part of the farm his ancestors first purchased in 1861.
“We believe this sets precedent for other farmers in the area whose property is in dispute,” Texas Farm Bureau President Russell W. Boening said. “We hope other members and landowners will see resolution soon as well.”
Henderson, who is president of his local county Farm Bureau, worked with Texas Farm Bureau, Congressman Mac Thornberry, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Clay County to reclaim the 94 acres he lost in a Red River boundary dispute in the 1980s.
“It’s such a relief and a great feeling,” Henderson said. “It’s been a long road. Years ago the judge, we felt, erroneously awarded the land to BLM, but they’ve made it right now.”
Henderson was able to regain his land under the Color of Title Act, which allows residents to buy back disputed land at a reduced cost if they can show they’ve made land improvements, paid taxes on it and have a clear title.
To help clear up clouded titles more quickly, the Oklahoma Field Office for BLM has added a realty specialist to its staff.
“I’m optimistic there will be patenting and privatizing of public land that landowners feel was always theirs and that they’ve been paying taxes on,” Steve Tryon, BLM field manager, said.
Calling the awarding of Henderson’s land patent a “highlight of his career,” Tryon said, “this just feels right.”
In the meantime, Texas Farm Bureau and Thornberry’s office are working with BLM and Congress on legislation that could possibly help other affected landowners.
“The bill that Sen. (John) Cornyn and I are working on really needs to move forward so we can get this solved for everybody, not just one landowner,” Thornberry said.
The legislation will help affirm private property rights, according to Thornberry, and make sure other landowners don’t have to endure what Henderson has.
“This achievement gives us reason to believe we can solve this issue for everyone,” Boening said. “It’s a great day for Tommy, a great day for Texas Farm Bureau and a giant win for private property rights in Texas.”
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