BLM Land Grab Legislation

BLM Land Grab Legislation

New legislation is aiming to bring clarity to land owners along the Red River. United States Congressman Mac Thornberry met with county judges Wednesday in Wichita Falls to discuss the Red River Private Property Protection Act.

Congressman Thornberry told area leaders that this time around he took into consideration the concerns of land owners.

The legislation calls for the commissioning of an independent survey on the 116 mile stretch along the Red River that the Bureau of Land Management claims they own. That survey would help clear up claims of ownership from spot surveys conducted by the BLM back in 2008 and 2009.

"Rather than putting the burden on the land owners to prove they own the land, to actually get a survey and have this independent scientific basis for where the boundary actually is," said Thornberry.

That survey would be paid for by federal dollars. If passed, the legislation allows that survey process to take, at most, two years. At that point, land owners would still have the right to appeal the findings.

The remaining land would belong to the BLM, but then could be sold to adjacent land owners. Since 2013, the BLM has decreased their claim of ownership from 90,000 acres to 30,000. However, that land dispute is still impacting more than 170 Red River residents.

One land owner along the Red River isn't banking on the success of the bill. Kevin Hunter owns land in Burkburnett. He is taking moves to ensure he keeps his land, regardless of what happens.

"When I read it, yeah, it's a way to maybe getting this cleared up," said Hunter. "But you know, we are still going to have to get a survey."

Hunter is at risk of losing roughly 260 acres to the BLM.

"Why have they always said they owned this land, but never managed it," said Hunter. "They've allowed people in Texas to buy and sell it, get Texas issued deeds on it, and we pay taxes on it."

That's why he says he won't wait on legislation to clear up claims. Right now he's working to protest the BLM by bringing someone in to conduct his own land survey.

"We want to try and get, I guess get them to go away," said Hunter.

After shelling out $2,100, Hunter has received his own findings of what the BLM owns. Something that looks much different, than the findings of the BLM survey.

"Where they put their marker down is not consistent with where anyone else thinks the boundary is," said Thornberry. "There's never been a perfect bill that has been written or passed, so you know, I can't say this is perfect. But I do think that this is the way to solve this for good," said Thornberry.

Brittany Costello, Newschannel 6