Feds, Landowners Trying To Resolve 29-Year-Old Red River Property Dispute

Apr 30, 2014

After 29 years of waiting for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to settle their claims, officials met with dozens of property owners who are disputing a federal land grab along the Texas-Oklahoma border.

The case involves about 90,000 acres of land along the Red River, the region's natural border with Oklahoma. Tommy Henderson, who lives near Wichita Falls, has 140 acres of the disputed land on his property. Henderson said the dispute centers around where the BLM believes the river begins, which currently is considered public domain.

“The BLM is claiming that the boundary between Texas and Oklahoma -- or Texas and the BLM land -- is the high bluffs of the Red River, and that’s not what the Supreme Court ruling of 1923 says," Henderson said. "The Supreme Court says very clearly it is the gradient boundary, which in layman's terms that’s about the vegetation line.”

Henderson said the dispute affects hundreds of peoples' land, of which some tracks are two miles wide. This week Henderson met with federal and state-elected officials to try and facilitate some type of solution, but he’s not hopeful.

"At the meeting they were telling about how if they took it, you can apply for it by color of title, you can do this and do that; that was the exact same speech they gave me 29 years ago,” Henderson said.

Henderson said that was exactly what officials with the BLM told him in 1985 following an Oklahoma judge's ruling that said the land belonged to the U.S. government. He said he hasn’t heard from them until this week and that he still doesn’t have an answer.

The issue is getting attention now as the BLM decides what to do with the area. Several state officials from both sides of the political aisle are calling the move an overreach by the federal government.