AUSTIN – In a major win for private property rights, the Texas Public Policy Foundation, Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announce a successful settlement in the lawsuit filed against the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
The plaintiffs in the case include the Texas General Land Office (GLO), private property owners and county plaintiffs, and the State of Texas. The Texas Attorney General and Texas General Land Office partnered with the Texas Public Policy Foundation who represented a coalition of private landowners, the counties of Wichita, Wilbarger, and Clay, and the Clay County Sheriff.
"For more than 180 years Texans have stood up against anyone who would attempt to infringe on our property rights,” said Commissioner Bush. “In this case, Texas families owned and worked the land at the heart of this matter for generations, until the unfair attempt to seize it. The Land Office had held mineral rights to this land, on behalf of our children and future Texans, for nearly two centuries. Texans have always defended our land and our rights. At the end of the day, the saying remains true: Don’t mess with Texas."
The judge’s ruling approving the settlement agreement concludes a dispute which began in 2009 when BLM placed federal survey markers within Texas claiming private property along a 116-mile stretch of the Red River as federal lands. In 2014, the case took on new urgency when the BLM announced it would implement a regional management plan allowing the federal government to take control over the estimated 90,000 acre disputed area within Clay, Wichita and Wilbarger counties. This claim included mineral assets owned by the Texas Permanent School Fund (PSF), which is managed by the GLO for the benefit of the schoolchildren of Texas.
In late 2015, General Paxton filed a motion to intervene in the case on behalf of the State of Texas, and Commissioner Bush filed a motion to intervene on behalf of the PSF. In March, the United States District Court for Northern Texas granted both motions.
“The borders of Texas are a fundamental expression of our sovereignty,” said Attorney General Paxton. “We are pleased that the federal government has retreated from its effort to arbitrarily infringe upon Texas land and undermine the private property rights of our citizens. The Obama Administration’s efforts to take from Texas tens of thousands of acres of our land failed, and we are grateful to the Trump Administration for finally removing this impermissible infringement upon Texas’ sovereign borders.”
"With the Court’s approval of the settlement agreement, the Bureau of Land Management has been pushed back out of Texas and across the Red River,” said Robert Henneke, general counsel and director of the Center for the American Future at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. “Because of this, our clients’ homes and family lands are safe from seizure by the federal government and protected from this type of land grab happening in the future. BLM has cancelled its surveys and federal markers and disclaimed its maps estimating public lands within Texas along the Red River. Now, our clients, their families, and neighbors can be at peace again within their homes.”
“The settlement agreement gives my clients all they ever wanted — to be able to enjoy their property without being under the cloud of the BLM’s faulty surveys and untenable claims,” said Austin Curry, a principal at Caldwell Cassady & Curry who served as co-counsel. “We are grateful to Judge O’Connor and Judge Cureton for giving this case their time and attention and for faithfully applying the law.”
“I applaud President Donald Trump’s administration for withdrawing the previous administration’s false claim to private land,” said Commissioner Bush. “Today’s victory is one for both private property rights and for the schoolchildren of Texas. It’s also a heartening restoration of the rule of law.”
The agreement protects both private property rights and the mineral rights of the school children of Texas. Texas constitutionally dedicates PSF land and mineral interests to be managed by the GLO for the benefit the public-school children of the State of Texas. The GLO is constitutionally charged with the sacred and solemn responsibility of maximizing revenues from Texas public school lands.
With this settlement, the BLM, under the Trump administration, has agreed the boundary once in dispute is governed by the opinion of the Supreme Court in Oklahoma v. Texas (1923), thereby removing any inappropriate interference of the GLO’s duty to the children of Texas.
Read the judge’s order here https://www.texaspolicy.com/content/detail/order-granting-settlement-agreement-in-blm-red-river-case
The agreement can be found here https://www.texaspolicy.com/content/detail/settlement-agreement-in-blm-red-river-case
For additional background on the Permanent School Fund and information on the GLO’s standing in the case, please visit http://www.glo.texas.gov/the-glo/news/press-releases/2016/march/us-district-court-approves-glo-commissioner-bushs-intervention-in-lawsuit-against-blm-land-grab.html.
To learn more about Texas Public Policy Foundation’s litigation center, please visit https://www.texaspolicy.com/centers/detail/center-for-the-american-future
The Honorable Robert Henneke is the general counsel and director of the Center for the American Future at the Texas Public Policy Foundation.
The Texas Public Policy Foundation is a non-profit free-market research institute based in Austin. The Texas Public Policy Foundation aims to advance a societal framework that effectively fosters human flourishing based upon cooperation and mutually beneficial exchange of ideas and speech.