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Thornberry, Cornyn Bill to Protect Private Property Along Red River Passes the House

Bill is headed to the President's desk

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Washington, February 27, 2019 | comments

WASHINGTON- U.S. Congressman Mac Thornberry (R-Clarendon) and U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) released the following statements after the "Red River Gradient Boundary Survey Act," legislation requiring the necessary gradient boundary survey of the 116-mile stretch of the Red River between Texas and Oklahoma, passed the House as a part of the "Natural Resources Management Act."  This bill will now go to the President's desk for signature.

“The fundamental right to own property must be protected.  This bill takes another crucial step in giving property owners the assurance they deserve to know once and for all where public lands end and private lands begin.  The pieces are now in place to see that property owners are protected," Thornberry said.  "I am grateful for all of the work that has been done on this issue for the past several years.  Senator Cornyn has been an important advocate for private property rights and instrumental in getting this done.”

"With the passage of this bill, we’re one step closer to delivering certainty for Texas families who live and own land along the Red River that the federal government has no rightful claim to their property,” said Sen. Cornyn.  “I’m grateful to Rep. Thornberry and my colleagues in the House for supporting this bill.”

Currently, the BLM has the authority to survey the contested area using BLM surveyors without any input from the states.  This legislation requires the BLM to use independent third-party surveyors chosen in consultation with the states and the Tribes.  BLM can then only implement the completed survey or portions of the survey that have the written approval of the states and the Tribes.  Texas, Oklahoma, and the affected Tribes would have full veto authority to protect private property rights and ensure an accurate survey.  To read more click here.

History of the Red River Survey Legislation

  • Issue: In 2013, the BLM held public meetings that indicated there is an estimated 90,000 acres of land along the 116-mile stretch of the Red River that may be considered public domain, which immediately created concern that the federal government was claiming to own land to which private individuals had deeds and on which they had paid taxes for generations.

113th Congress (2013-2014)

  • Introduction: On June 26, 2014, Congressman Thornberry introduced H.R. 4979 and Senator Cornyn introduced S. 2537, the “Red River Private Property Protection Act.”
  • Committee Action: H.R. 4979 – The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands held a legislative hearing on H.R. 4979 on July 29, 2014.  On December 22, 2014, the Committee amended the bill and reported it to the full House.
  • Appropriation Language Signed into Law: Language included in FY2015 Consolidated Appropriations Bill, H.R. 83, directed BLM to defer land use planning until proper surveys completed. H.R. 83 was signed into law on December 16, 2014.

114th Congress (2015-2016)

  • Introduction: On April 30, 2015, Congressman Thornberry introduced H.R. 2130 and Senator Cornyn introduced S. 1153, the “Red River Private Property Protection Act.”
  • House Passage: H.R. 2130 passed the House on December 9, 2015.
  • Introduction: On December 15, 2016, Congressman Thornberry introduced a modified bill as H.R. 6479, the “Red River Gradient Boundary Survey Act.”

115th Congress (2017-2018)

  • Introduction: On January 10, 2017, Congressman Thornberry introduced H.R. 428 and Senator Cornyn introduced S.90, the “Red River Gradient Boundary Survey Act.”
  • House Passage: H.R. 428 passed the House on February 14, 2017.
  • Committee Action: S. 90 – Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held legislative hearing on July 26, 2017, and reported bill to Senate on November 29, 2018.
  • Survey Funding Signed into Law: $1 million allocated to conduct the Red River survey included in H.R. 1625, the Consolidated Appropriations Act for FY2018, which was signed into law on March 23, 2018.

116th Congress (2019)

  • Introduction: On January 8, 2019, Congressman Thornberry introduced H.R. 346 and Senator Cornyn introduced S.41, the “Red River Gradient Boundary Survey Act.”
  • Appropriation Language Signed into Law: Language included in FY2019 Consolidated Appropriations Act, H.J.Res. 31, which was signed into law on February 15, 2019, directs the BLM to contract with independent, third-party surveyors chosen by the states and the Tribes.
  • Signed Into Law: “Red River Gradient Boundary Survey Act” included in S. 47, the lands package that passed the Senate on February 12, 2019, and passed the House on February 26, 2019, and is now being sent to the President for signature.
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