The media firestorm over the Bundy family ranch has open the federal Bureau of Land Management’s actions up to more scrutiny. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott is now sounding the alarm about another situation that could be unfolding along the border between the Lone Star State and Oklahoma:
The under-the-radar issue has caught the attention of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who fired off a letter on Tuesday to BLM Director Neil Kornze saying the agency “appears to be threatening” the private property rights of “hard-working Texans.”
“Decisions of this magnitude must not be made inside a bureaucratic black box,” wrote Abbott, also a Republican gubernatorial candidate.
At issue are thousands of acres of land on the Texas side of the Red River, along the border between Texas and Oklahoma. Officials recently have raised concern that the BLM might be looking at claiming 90,000 acres of land as part of the public domain.
According to background materials put out by Texas Republican Rep. Mac Thornberry’s office, the BLM is revisiting its management plan for lands including those along a 116-mile stretch of the Red River. His office said the possibility has been discussed of opening that land up for “hunting, recreation and management.”
While the excessive display of force directed at the Bundy family was completely unnecessary and counterproductive, the Bureau of Land Management at least has a legal argument concerning the unpaid cattle grazing fees. Just the same, however, the showdown has brought other issues concerning federal policy and land ownership that need to be discussed by lawmakers.
The situation in Texas is just as concerning, perhaps even more so, because the lands that the Bureau of Land Management is reportedly eyeing are privately owned lands. That means that any action the agency takes would be through eminent domain.
Typically, when a government agency uses the Takings Clause to, essentially, steal money from private property owners, it compensates them, though rarely at market value. Those who are calling attention to this potential land grab in Texas point out that a property owner involved in an earlier legal dispute with the Bureau of Land Management was never compensated when the federal agency took his property.
So, yeah, private property owners in the 90,000 acre area are, understandably, concerned about the Bureau of Land Management eyeing their land. Whatever the federal agency’s argument may be — in this case, rehashing a long-settled border issue — it shows how little it cares about private property rights.