Posted by Eric Barlow on April 17, 2014
The BLM removed armed federal agents from Bunkeville and near the Bundy ranch, but another possible “land grab” or range war appears to be brewing in Texas. Fellow rancher Tommy Henderson has been fighting the BLM for 30 years, and appears to be losing yet another round in the battle.
Tommy Henderson is locked in a property rights fight with the BLM. Although many students are taught in geography class that the border between Texas and Oklahoma is the Red River, the issue is far more complicated than that, according to the Bureau of Land Management. The BLM used an ongoing debate over the border to nab 140 acres of land Henderson’s failed lawsuit against the agency three decades ago.
BLM is now using the Tommy Henderson lawsuit ruling as a precedent to seize even more of his land along a 116-mile stretch of the river which the agency claims never belonged to Texas in the first place. Henderson holds a deed to the 90,000 acres, but such a legal document did not prevent him from losing the 140-acre parcel he had labored over and paid property taxes on for years.
Henderson had this to say about the emerging Red River range war in Texas:
“They’re wanting to take the boundaries that the courts placed here and extend those east and west to the forks of the river north of Vernon and east to the 98th Meridian which is about 20 miles east of us.”
If the BLM is successful in its bid to seize the 90,000 owned by the Texas rancher, it would substantially alter the boundaries between the two states. The fight boils down to the difference between avulsion and accretion. The river has moved over time and the boundary is supposed to be noted as the vegetation line along the south side of the waterway. Both states use different semantics to define the boundary, according to the Americas Freedom Fighters website. The BLM has allegedly been able to capitalize on the confusion in the bid to seize Henderson’s land. Oklahoma state statute defines avulsion in a different manner than both the United States government and Texas.
A statement from the BLM about the possible land seizure in Texas reads:
“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 the land is found to be public, BLM officials say they have three options: leave the land open, closed, or open with limitations.”
The BLM also contends that in the Red River there is always accretion – the gradual accumulation of sediment, to the south. The federal agency also stated that avulsion, the rapid formation of a new river channel, occurs on the north side of the river. The Bureau of Land Management believes that since the boundary between Texas and Oklahoma only moves in one direction – and that direction has not favored the ranchers working the land along the Red River. If the agency is able to redraw the Red River boundary it will include Tommy Henderson’s 90,000 acre ranch. If the BLM seizes the land, claiming that is should never have been privately owned due to the boundary dispute, grazing of cattle could still be an option – but will come at a price.
Tommy Henderson also had this to say about the very real possibility of losing his ranch:
“How can BLM come in and say, ‘Hey, this isn’t yours.’ Even though its patented from the state, you’ve always paid taxes on it. Our family paid taxes for over 100 years on this place. We’ve got a deed to it. But yet they walked in and said it wasn’t ours. Originally, here the river was out there where it is now and it eroded and accreted up to here, and then it eroded and accreted back. Well, their interpretation is that it eroded up to here but avulsed back. So when you listen to them it is always erosion to the south because the property line follows it then, but it’s always avulsion when it goes north. So the boundary can move south but it can never move back north.”
A boundary change could land families who have be considered Texans for generations on the other side of the line and actually suddenly find themselves Oklahoma residents.
How do you feel about the ongoing actions by the BLM which could impact Texas ranch owned by Tommy Henderson?