Congress Holds Hearing on BLM Land Dispute - KAUZ-TV: Newschannel 6 Now | Wichita Falls, TX

Congress Holds Hearing on BLM Land Dispute

House Resolution 4979, more commonly known as the Red River Private Property Protection Act, was one of the subjects of a hearing held by the House of Representatives' Natural Resource Committee on Tuesday. Congressman Mac Thornberry (R-TX, 13th District), as well as Red River land owner and game warden Pat Canan, testified at the hearing on behalf of the bill.

"Part of what we were trying to do today is educate members about our situation," Thornberry said, "and why we need to have some sort of resolution as soon as possible."

The Bureau of Land Management has been attempting to take 45,000 acres of land along the Red River away from land owners who pay taxes, and have a deed and title to the land.  

Some of the questions raised on the piece of legislation at the hearing were whether it affected any claims that Native American tribes have to the land, and whether the Bureau of Land Management could solve this problem on their own. The answer to both, according to Thornberry, was no.  

Pat Canan's testimony focused on the location of the gradient boundary, or the dividing line between public ownership of a stream's lower bank area and private ownership of the higher bank area.  

"The main point I wanted to bring up was the fact that the gradient boundary is physically much closer to the Red River then what they surveyed it," said Canan. "I wanted everyone to realize that [the BLM] may not be dealing with good faith when it comes to their surveying. 

The next step in the legislative process is for the natural resources committee to move the bill to the house floor for a full house vote. It eventually still needs to brought before the senate and the president. Thornberry knows that the longer it takes for the bill to pass through Congress, the more landowners suffer.  

"We can't keep stewing on this for years," explains Thornberry, "because if we do, these landowners have some of the value, some of the ability to exercise their ownership rights taken away from them while this thing drags on."

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