How Far Do States’ Rights Go?

KWKT,com posted a story yesterday (updated today) about the federal government’s latest land grab. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has written a letter to Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Director Neil Kornze about a BLM potential seizure of land that rightfully belongs to Texas landowners.

This is the letter:

April 22, 2014
The Honorable Neil Kornze
Director
Bureau of Land Management
U.S. Department of the Interior
1849 C Street NW, Rm. 5665
Washington, DC 20240
Dear Director Kornze:
Respect for property rights and the rule of law are fundamental principles in the State of Texas and the United States. When governments simply ignore those principles, it threatens the foundation of our free and prosperous society. That is why I am deeply concerned about reports that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is considering taking property in the State of Texas and that it now claims belongs to the federal government. Given the seriousness of this situation, I feel compelled to seek answers regarding the BLM’s intentions and legal authority with respect to Texas territory adjacent to the Red River.

I understand that your office is in the early stages of developing a plan—known as a Resource Management Plan/Environmental Impact Statement (RMP/EIS)—to regulate the use of federal lands along a 116-mile stretch of the Red River. As Attorney General of Texas, I am deeply troubled by reports from BLM field hearings that the federal government may claim—for the first time—that 90,000 acres of territory along the Red River now belong to the federal government.

Private landowners in Texas have owned, maintained, and cultivated this land for generations. Despite the long-settled expectations of these hard-working Texans along the Red River, the BLM appears to be threatening their private property rights by claiming ownership over this territory. Yet, the BLM has failed to disclose either its full intentions or the legal justification for its proposed actions. Decisions of this magnitude must not be made inside a bureaucratic black box.

Nearly a century ago, the U.S. Supreme Court determined that the gradient line of the south bank of the Red River—subject to the doctrines of accretion and avulsion—was the boundary between Texas and Oklahoma. Oklahoma v. Texas, 260 U.S. 606 (1923). More recently, in 1994, the BLM stated that the Red River area was “[a] unique situation” and stated that “[t]he area itself cannot be defined until action by the U.S. Congress establishes the permanent state boundary between Oklahoma and Texas.” Further, the BLM determined that one possible scenario was legislation that established the “south geologic cut bank as the boundary,” which could have resulted “in up to 90,000 acres” of newly delineated federal land. But no such legislation was ever enacted.

Instead, in 2000, the U.S. Congress enacted legislation ratifying an interstate boundary compact agreed to by the State of Texas and the State of Oklahoma. With Congress’ ratification of the Red River Boundary Compact, federal law now provides that the boundary between Texas and Oklahoma is “the vegetation on the south bank of the Red River . . .”—not the “south geologic cut bank.” Given this significant legal development, it is not at all clear what legal basis supports the BLM’s claim of federal ownership over private property that abuts the Red River in the State of Texas.

This issue is of significant importance to the State of Texas and its private property owners. As Attorney General of Texas, I am deeply concerned about the notion that the BLM believes the federal government has the authority to swoop in and take land that has been owned and cultivated by Texas landowners for generations. Accordingly, I hereby request that you or your staff respond in writing to this letter by providing the following information as soon as possible:
1. Please delineate with specificity each of the steps for the RMP/EIS process for property along the Red River.

2. Please describe the procedural due process the BLM will afford to Texans whose property may be claimed by the federal government.

3. Please confirm whether the BLM agrees that, from 1923 until the ratification of the Red River Boundary Compact, the boundary between Texas and Oklahoma was the gradient line of the south bank of the Red River. To the extent the BLM does not agree, please provide legal analysis supporting the BLM’s position.

4. Please confirm whether the BLM still considers Congress’ ratification of the Red River Boundary Compact as determinative of its interest in land along the Red River? To the extent the BLM does not agree, please provide legal analysis supporting the BLM’s new position.

5. Please delineate with specificity the amount of Texas territory that would be impacted by the BLM’s decision to claim this private land as the property of the federal government.
In short, the BLM’s newly asserted claims to land along the Red River threaten to upset long-settled private property rights and undermine fundamental principles—including the rule of law—that form the foundation of our democracy. It is incumbent on BLM to promptly disclose both the process it intends to follow and the legal justification for its position.
Sincerely,
Greg Abbott
Attorney General of Texas

At least Texas has an Attorney General that is willing to stand up for the rights of its citizens.

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Government Bullying Takes A New Turn

Yesterday the Las Vegas Sun posted an article about some recent events in the Nevada desert. Cliven Bundy, a 68-year-old Nevada native, has been in a battle with the Bureau of Land Managment (BLM) over land that his cattle has been grazing on for decades.

The article reports:

A renegade when it comes to any sort of government control, Bundy — the father of 14 children — has refused to pay BLM a dime of required grazing fees for his 900 cattle, a tab that has since reached $300,000. Bundy has fought the fee, he says, because his Mormon ancestors set up shop on the land long before the BLM formed.

The problem? The land where Bundy’s cattle graze is federally owned, and the BLM now says the livestock aren’t supposed to be there. Federal agents this week cordoned off sections of land and sparked a monthlong operation to seize the cattle.

Tensions boiled over this week when a scuffle between the BLM and Bundy’s supporters ended in violence: Agents reportedly used a stun gun to subdue Bundy’s son and knocked his daughter to the ground. Though called “brutal” by some, the brawl did not land anyone in a hospital or jail.

But the incident did prompt Operation Mutual Aid — a national militia with members from California to Missouri — to visit Bundy’s ranch and set up a camp just in case things got out of hand again. Before their arrival Thursday, dozens of Bundy’s friends and relatives gathered at a protest camp in solidarity for the recent woes that have colored his rustic ranch.

The Blaze has also reported on this story:

But the presence of what appear to be heavily armed agents isn’t the only thing that has the Bundys on edge: Their son, Dave, was arrested and allegedly roughed up Sunday for filming federal agents while outside an area designated for First Amendment activity on the restricted property. He was held overnight.

The 37-year-old Bundy was arrested “following failure to comply with multiple requests by BLM law enforcement to leave the temporary closure area on public lands,” Cannon said. She declined to comment on the claim that he was brutally treated.

Dave Bundy was released from custody Monday and cited for refusing to disperse and resisting issuance of a citation or arrest, she added. Cannon could not explain why Dave was held overnight.

There are a few questions I have here. At what point did the government take over the land? Did the government pay for the land? Why was David Bundy arrested for taking filming federal agents? This does not sound like America–it sounds like a government of bullies with nothing better to do than harass American citizens. Among other things, the government is stealing this man’s cattle!

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Whoops!

On Friday Hot Air reported that the auction for leases for the development of wind and solar farms in the western United States did not go as planned.

The article reports:

The nation’s first federally run auction for a chance to develop solar power projects on public lands was a bust.

No bidders showed up for the auction by the federal Bureau of Land Management, which was held Thursday in Lakewood.

“We did not have any bidders come to the sale and we did not receive any sealed bids on the sale,” BLM spokeswoman Vanessa Lacayo said. …

“The BLM had received interest in developing the sites, that’s why we moved forward,” she said. “It’s hard to say why we didn’t have any bidders.” …

“We will evaluate today’s auction as we look at future opportunities to offer lands in Solar Energy Zones for development, both in Colorado and other Western states,” the statement said.

Maybe there were no bidders because at the present time the technology for both wind and solar has not proven to be economically profitable. The sad part of this is that at the same time the government is holding these auctions with no takers they are blocking oil leases on government land. The oil boom in the west is almost entirely on private land–the government is not allowing the leases on government land. So what we have is the government selling leases of questionable value on government land while blocking the leases that might actually help the economy and lower unemployment. In what universe does that make sense?

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