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Saturday, December 9, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Saturday, December 9, 2023 | Back issues
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Texas Sues USA Over a ‘Land Grab’

WICHITA FALLAS, Texas (CN) - Texas has intervened in a property owners' lawsuit against the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, asserting state sovereignty in a "rightful boundary" fight along the Red River and Oklahoma.

Eight private landowners, Clay County Sheriff Kenneth Lemons Jr. and three counties sued the BLM in Federal Court on Monday, seeking quiet title after alleged violations of due process and unreasonable seizure.

They claim it is "well established" that Texas begins at the southern bank of the Red River and that federal ownership of property "is limited to bottom-half of the sandy riverbed" outside of the state.

"Nonetheless, BLM asserts that its boundary extends well past the riverbed into Texas and, in some instances, more than a mile outside of its lawful territory," the complaint states. "In doing so, BLM has seized private property and infringed upon the sovereignty of the local county governments."

Attorney General Ken Paxton intervened Wednesday, claiming the BLM is conducting a "land grab." Paxton said he is "seeking to establish recognition of our state's rightful boundary" and that any state's borders "are a fundamental expression" of its sovereignty.

"We will not allow the federal government to arbitrarily infringe upon Texas land and undermine the private property rights of our citizens," Paxton said in a statement Wednesday. "The federal government must follow the law and recognize our correct borders, consistent with decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court defining the boundary formed by the Red River."

Paxton said several U.S. Supreme Court cases in the 1920s concluded that the federal government has rights only to the narrow part of the Red River up to the southern bank. He said the federal government claims it owns up to 90,000 acres of Texas land along 117 miles of the Red River.

"The BLM's failure and refusal to conduct a proper and complete boundary survey along the Red River directly injures the state's ability to demand recognition of its boundary," Paxton said. "The federal government's inaccurate and arbitrary claim to land located in Texas conflicts with the requirements of the U.S. Supreme Court."

BLM spokesman Paul McGuire said the agency is "committed to working with" the community through the planning process.

We share the interest of all parties in clarifying ownership and identifying appropriate management alternatives," he said in a statement Tuesday.

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