The “Red River Gradient Boundary Survey Act,” H.R. 428, introduced by U.S. Congressman Mac Thornberry (R-Clarendon), today passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 250-171. The bill establishes a fair and balanced process to conduct an accurate survey of contested land along the Red River to find the proper boundary between public and private ownership.
“This bill essentially requires the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to do what they should have done all along. Its passage in the House is an important step toward providing these landowners with the legal certainty they deserve. I hope we can use this momentum to get the bill passed in the Senate and then signed into law by the President,” Thornberry said. “I will continue working with the landowners, local and state officials, and Senator Cornyn (R-TX) until this issue is resolved once and for all.”
For nearly a century, the BLM has failed to survey a small strip of federal land along the entire 116-mile stretch of the Red River between Oklahoma and Texas. The BLM has never actively managed the small strip of federal land, and its own estimates of how much they own have varied widely over the years.
As a result, private landowners along the River are now unsure whether the land that they have held titles to and have paid taxes on, in some cases for generations, will remain in their families or be confiscated by the federal government. Since concern first arose in December 2013, Thornberry’s office has held multiple meetings, phone calls, and other correspondence with landowners, as well as local and state officials, to coordinate action.
The legislation will provide legal certainty to property owners along the Red River by:
• Commissioning a survey of the entire 116-mile stretch of contested area along the Red River using the gradient boundary survey method developed and backed by the Supreme Court to find the proper ownership boundary between public and private land.
• Ordering that the survey be conducted by licensed and qualified surveyors chosen by Texas and Oklahoma.
• Providing states the authority to oversee the surveyors and approve the final survey to ensure the Supreme Court instructions are properly followed.
• Requiring that a notice of survey approval, a copy of the survey, and any related field notes be provided to each individual land owner after the survey is completed.
• Ensuring that nothing in the bill alters the Red River Boundary Compact, modifies the interests of the states, or harms the rights of the impacted federally recognized Indian Tribes.
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