Texas Farm Bureau applauds BLM suspension of Red River surveys
(WACO, Texas)–After years of battling the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for their property, Red River residents received good news this week.
The bureau admitted the surveys it conducted to decide which lands it claims as federal property were done incorrectly.
“We’re pleased the Bureau of Land Management has done the right thing by admitting that the land surveys do not take the movement of the Red River into consideration,” Texas Farm Bureau (TFB) President Russell Boening said. “TFB has been involved in this situation for years. We take it very seriously when government decides that private property no longer belongs to those who have purchased, paid taxes and hold titles to it."
Over time, the Red River banks change drastically. Due to a previous court case, the BLM was awarded Texas land near the river.
Several years ago, the BLM began surveying that land and claimed additional land as the result of the river’s movement.
That land had been paid for and cared for by Texas landowners for generations.
“When this was brought to our attention by TFB member Tommy Henderson, we knew we had to act,” Boening said. “We sent a video crew to Tommy’s place to document his fight for family land along the river. That video went viral and brought much-needed light to the situation.”
Since then, a group of eight landowners, the State of Texas, the General Land office, three Texas counties and a county sheriff have brought suit against the BLM and the federal government to protect property rights.
BLM admitted this week the error in previous land surveys along the river.
“Having reviewed the deposition testimony and other new information, the BLM believes the survey methodology used was in error, and may have caused errors in identifying the location of the gradient boundary,” a March 29 letter from the BLM states.
The BLM has suspended all administrative actions regarding the land along the river.
“I think things are moving our way,” Henderson said. “They’re starting to realize that maybe they didn’t use the appropriate surveying method on the Red River, which is exactly what we have said from day one.”
Henderson believes the pressure put on the bureau in Congress and by the lawsuit has prompted the reconsideration.
BLM’s announcement Wednesday was welcome news to landowners who have been left in limbo for years, caring and paying for land that might be taken from them at any time.
U.S. Congressman Mac Thornberry of Texas, who has been working with Red River landowners on the issue, welcomed the news from the bureau Wednesday.
“The portions of the river that the agency has surveyed strayed widely from the accepted gradient boundary survey method established by the Supreme Court in Oklahoma v. Texas,” Thornberry said. “It is encouraging that the BLM has admitted their error and that all administrative action will be suspended until the matter is resolved.”
U.S. Senator John Cornyn of Texas and Thornberry have twice introduced legislation in the U.S. House and Senate that would require the bureau to clarify its surveying techniques.
“The fight’s not over yet, but we’ve made a pretty good step,” Henderson said. “We have to get this fixed so BLM never comes back again and tries this.”
The Red River Gradient Boundary Survey Act passed the House with overwhelming support. It has not been taken up by the Senate.
“We, the Texas-Oklahoma Boundary Commission, thought we had fixed this back in 2000,” Henderson said. “If it was a football game, you’d say they ran around the end zone, but they stepped out of bounds.”
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Audio files of Tommy Henderson's quotes are available below, if needed.
Clip 1: “I think things are moving our way. They’re starting to realize that maybe they didn’t use the appropriate surveying method on the Red River, which is exactly what we have said from day one.”
Clip 2: "We've made a pretty good step, but the fight is not over with."
Clip 3: “We, the Texas-Oklahoma Boundary Commission, thought we had fixed this back in 2000. If it was a football game, you’d say they ran around the end zone, but they stepped out of bounds.”