There's finally a true ray of hope for some land owners along the Red River in North Texas.  H.R. 2130, ‘The Red River Private Property Protection Act’, was passed in the House of Representatives on Wednesday. The bill, which passed by a vote of 253-177, was introduced by 13th District Congressman Mac Thornberry (R-Clarendon). The bill is written to provide legal certainty to landowners by ending any questions about the federal government's ownership of disputed land along the Red River.

“This is a big victory for the landowners along the Red River and also for property owners everywhere who deserve to know that the federal government cannot come in and take away what they own. I hope we can use this momentum to get the bill passed in the Senate and then signed into law by the President,” Thornberry said. “I will continue working with the landowners, local and state officials, and Senator Cornyn (R-TX) until this issue is resolved once and for all.”

Many landowners and other public officials are alarmed that Bureau of Land Management (BLM) actions might result in disputed claims of ownership. Thornberry’s office has held multiple meetings, phone calls, and other correspondence with landowners, as well as local and state officials, to coordinate action over the past two years. Officials with Thornberry’s office say the bill is a reflection of the input they received from landowners, the Texas General Land Office and others.

Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn offered his view:

“Texas families that have owned land along the Red River for generations deserve certainty that their property rights will be protected from overreach by the Obama Administration. Today’s vote is a positive step toward ensuring the federal government’s land claims are restrained and Texas landowner rights are protected.”

Here’s what’s in the bill:

  • Commissioning a survey of the entire 116-mile stretch of contested area along the Red River using the gradient boundary survey method developed and backed by the Supreme Court to find the proper boundary between private and federally owned land.
  • Ordering that the survey be conducted within two years by Licensed State Land Surveyors and approved by the Texas General Land Office in consultation with The Commissioners of the Land Office in Oklahoma.
  • Allowing landowners who hold the proper right, title, and/or interest in the contested area to appeal the determination of the survey to an administrative law judge.  Landowners are also able to file for a modified Color-of-Title Act land patent request for public land that has been held in good faith and in peaceful adverse possession for $1.25 per acre.
  • Preventing any contested land from being included in the Resource Management Plan outside of the provisions in the bill.
  • Requiring the BLM to sell the remaining federal lands along the Red River at no less than market value and setting forth procedures for offering adjacent landowners the first rights of refusal. The bill also explicitly states that nothing in the Act shall be construed to modify the Red River Boundary Compact  and that the interest of Texas and Oklahoma and the sovereignty rights of the federally recognized Indian tribes north of the South Bank boundary line will not be affected.

But the fight is not over yet. White House officials say they will recommend that President Obama veto the bill as soon as it’s on his desk. Thornberry told Breitbart Texas, “It’s not surprising that this President would threaten to veto a bill meant to protect private property rights. These landowners and all property owners deserve to be protected from this sort of government overreach.”