You may have missed the press statement the U.S. Bureau of Land Management issued yesterday, in response to press requests following the release of a letter from Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott. Here it is.
On the Record
The BLM is categorically not expanding Federal holdings along the Red River. The 140-acres in question were determined to be public land in 1986 when the U.S. District Court ruled on a case brought by two private landowners, each seeking to adjust boundary lines for their respective properties. The BLM was not party to any litigation between the landowners. The 140-acres were at no time held in private ownership.
During Westward expansion of the country, Texas and Oklahoma disputed their state line, particularly in relationship to where it fell on the Red River. Once oil and gas was discovered, the dispute was elevated.
In 1923, the Supreme Court made a final determination on the State line and also clarified ownership by private landowners on each side of the river. Subsequently in 1981 and 1984, Texas and Oklahoma landowners challenged this finding in U.S. District Court as it related to their private property and the changing course of the river. In both cases, the District Court echoed the Supreme Court determination regarding private boundaries, ruling that the Oklahoma private landowner held property to the center of the river while the Texas landowner’s boundary stopped at the ordinary high water mark. In 1986, the U.S. District Court established that the 140-acres are public lands.
The BLM is currently in the initial stages of developing options for management of public lands in an area that includes the Red River. This is a transparent process with several opportunities for public input.
This issue has moved mostly underground, on radical right-wing on-line media, and Facebook and Twitter.