by Faye Higbee
The Red River is the boundary between Texas and Oklahoma…or is it?
Byers, Texas along the Red River — The BLM stole 140 acres of the Tommy Henderson ranch thirty years ago. They took his land and paid him absolutely nothing. He sued and lost. Now the BLM is using that court case as precedent to do it again. The problem is, the land they want to seize is property that ranchers have a deed for and have paid taxes on for over a hundred years.
The BLM claims that about 90,000 acres (116 miles along the Red River) have never belonged to Texas in the first place. They will seize the land and it will seriously change the boundaries between the two states.
Since 1803 when the Louisiana Purchase was completed, there has been a controversy over the boundary between Oklahoma and Texas. The boundary is supposed to be the vegetation line on the south side of the Red River. But the River has moved over time. The problem is the definition of that boundary line- Oklahoma and Texas each use different semantics to define it. And the BLM is finding ways to use the disputed words to give them the ability to seize the land.
According to the BLM, the Red River is always Accretion (gradual accumulation of sediment) to the south, and always Avulsion (rapid formation of a new river channel) to the north. So according to the BLM, the boundary only moves one direction, never in the direction that favors the ranchers. They are looking to re-draw the entire portion of the Red River boundary. That includes 90,000 acres of land along a 116 mile stretch of the river.
“BLM officials believe they have a responsibility to manage land they believe is federal which includes an estimated 90,000 acres along 116 miles of the Red River. If land is found to be public, BLM officials say they have three options: leave the land open, closed, or open with limitations.” January 2014
Public input ignored?
Land that has been in the families of ranchers is to be seized as “public lands” that would be subject to fees or blocked off entirely from rancher’s use. Or in some cases, moving the boundary line over to Oklahoma, where Texas ranchers can lose their rights to the lands that they have owned for more than a century. The BLM had open meetings back in January to “take input” from the public …but they are moving forward with their plan to seize the land anyway. There was likely never any intention of actually listening to the rancher’s stand.