AUSTIN, Texas (Legal Newsline) - Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott sent a letter to the federal Bureau of Land Management on Tuesday, calling into question the government's authority to seize land that belongs to Texas landowners.
Abbott expressed concern about the seizure of land to Neil Kornze, the director of the BLM. The land seizure was related to a plan to regulate the use of federal lands along a 116-mile stretch of the Red River.
"Respect for property rights and the rule of law are fundamental principles in the state of Texas and the United States," Abbott said. "When governments simply ignore those principles, it threatens the foundation of our free and prosperous society."
Abbott said he was compelled to seek answers regarding the BLM's legal authority and intentions related to the Texas territory adjacent to the Red River.
"Private landowners in Texas have owned, maintained, and cultivated this land for generations," Abbott said. "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."
In 1994, the BLM determined that the Red River area could not be defined until action was taken by Congress. One proposed scenario was legislation to establish the south geologic cut bank as the boundary between Oklahoma and Texas, which could have led to up to 90,000 acres of newly delineated federal land. Abbott said no such legislation was ever enacted.
"It is incumbent on BLM to promptly disclose both the process it intends to follow and the legal justification for its position," Abbott said.