BLM Land Grab: Wichita County Enters Lawsuit

BLM Land Grab: Wichita County Enters Lawsuit

There was a resounding, unanimous decision today at the Wichita County Courthouse.

The decision was one that put Wichita County in a plaintiff's position in a lawsuit against the Bureau of Land Management.

"We're protecting Texas against the federal government...against a federal land grab," County Commissioner Lee Harvey said.

The county joined Clay and Wilbarger counties in the battle, as well as private landowners, like Dude Smith.

"You hate to give up land," Smith said. "It's been there for so many years."

Smith owns about 2,200 acres of ranch land in Wichita County along the Red River. If the BLM wins the claim to the disputed land, Smith could lose nearly 1,000 acres, or about half of the land he's owned and paid taxes on in Wichita County since 1957.

"It'd be nice to know when you get up in the morning if your land is yours anymore," Smith said.

"[The county entering the lawsuit] really give a lot a weight to the landowners to have their government entities behind them," County Commissioner Lee Harvey said.

According to Harvey, the lawsuit protects landowners along the Red River from an overreaching government. But there's another reason to care which way this dispute goes, even if your land isn't involved.

"If we lose the ability to tax that land, we lose the ability to generate that revenue," Harvey explained, "and so you me and everybody else that lives here is going to have to bear that burden."

The next step in the process would be the state of Texas joining the lawsuit, which Harvey said could be coming soon, based on conversations he had with Governor Greg Abbott on Tuesday.

The lawsuit is all being funded by The Texas Public Policy Foundation, so it won't cost landowners a dime.

Commissioners hope this lawsuit will help push Congressman Mac Thornberry's bill, The Red River Private Property Protection Act, to a vote on the house floor. That bill recently passed through committee.

Dave Caulfield...Newschannel 6