Private landowners get help from counties in attempt to stave off federal takeover
Multiple ranchers, a sheriff and several Texas counties are suing the federal government for unconstitutionally attempting to seize thousands of acres of private property along the Red River.
Claiming the US Bureau of Land Management is violating citizens’ Fourth and Fifth Amendments and “infringing upon the sovereignty of local county governments,” a lawsuit filed in US District Court by nine private landowners, including one county sheriff, in addition to Wichita, Clay, and Wilbarger counties, seeks to end the dispute with the feds once and for all.
The lawsuit claims the federal government’s “ownership of property is limited to bottom-half of the sandy riverbed outside of Texas.
“Nonetheless, the 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.”
Plaintiff and rancher Ken Aderholt spoke out last month about the federal takeover threatening nearly half of his family’s land and home.
Despite Aderholt possessing a deed to 1,250 acres of property in Harrold, Texas since 1941, the BLM recently deemed the title worthless, asserting ownership of some 600 acres.
“The BLM is saying we should have never had a deed to it. That Texas should have never produced that deed,” Aderholt told KAUZ.
“It is a land grab,” Aderholt insists. “As far as I am concerned, this is private property.”
Other ranchers included in the lawsuit say the BLM is targeting more than half of their land, with some unaware of the exact acreage being claimed by the agency.
Wichita, Clay and Wilbarger counties say the BLM’s claim “interferes with [their] ability to regulate and provide services for the health, benefit and welfare of [their] citizens, and infringes upon [their] sovereignty.” Wichita County Commissioners claim Texas Gov. Greg Abbott gave his blessing prior to participating in the lawsuit.
Additionally, plaintiff and Clay County Sheriff Kenneth Lemons asserts the BLM’s “vague assertion of ownership and jurisdiction interferes with [his] ability to discharge his law enforcement duties by preventing him from being able to discern” local from federal land.
“Furthermore, [the BLM’s] assertion of ownership causes trespassers to encroach onto private landowners’ land and engage in unlawful activity under the belief they cannot be removed because it is federal public land,” the lawsuit reads.
The feds argue the 116-mile stretch along the Red River has been theirs all along.
“The BLM has maintained that the entire parcel of land along 116-miles of the Red River in question has been public land managed by the federal government since the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, confirmed time and again with Spain and the Supreme Court of the United States rulings,” reports John Ingle for the Times Record News.
The ranchers and counties worry the BLM’s “vague assertions” have cast “a cloud upon individual Plaintiffs’ titles, preventing them from disposing of their property, borrowing against it, or otherwise fully enjoying their property.”