Red River land dispute lawsuit reaches settlement

WICHITA FALLS - The long battle between over ownership of the the strip of land along the Red River is now over.

After several farmers, state agencies and the state of Texas brought a lawsuit against the Bureau of Land Management, landowners are now at ease. 

For years, the dispute over whether the federal government or owners themselves should claim the land along the Texas-Oklahoma line is now a thing of the past. Proponents say it's a huge victory.

When Clay County Sheriff Kenny Lemons joined the battle to claim the 116-mile strip of land along the Red River, he says he was more than ready to step in.

"They asked me to come in with the lawsuit to represent the county as the sheriff of Clay County, and I felt really privileged even being asked," Lemons said. "And so without any hesitation, I joined the lawsuit."

Lemons was one of more than ten landowners, state and county officials filing suit in 2015 against the BLM, accusing the agency of executing an "arbitrary seizure" of land many have called home for generations.

"When these surveys started getting involved involved in these properties, it was taking away tens of thousands of acres of land that they've been paying taxes on raised their families on and inherited," Lemons said.

But now the lawsuit has reached a settlement, in favor of the landowners along the Red River.

"It is going to disclaim the estimated maps that it published, that claimed public lands within Texas and it is agreed to the definition of the Red River boundary where it is correct along the current flowing waters of the river," the plaintiffs' lawyer.

Henneke says now that the property rights of the families along the Red River are protected, he says it takes a great weight off their shoulders. 

"Moving forward, this gives them certainty to know that the property is safe from the claims by the federal government," Henneke said.

"As a Texan, one of our greatest rights that we have is property land owner rights." Sheriff Lemons says after many hearings, depositions and time away many had to take away from their families and their jobs, the settlement has been a long time coming.

"They have proof they own their land and they can do what they please with it," Lemons said. "Whether they want to sell it, want to improve it, add fences, roads, driveways, whatever they want to do, that's their right."

Lemons says it's a victory for everyone who fought the long fight along the borders of the Red River.


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