Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott — who is running for governor in November — wrote a letter to the Bureau of Land Management blasting a (possible) move to make (up to) 90,000 acres of Texas federal property. It's a situation that is tangentially similar to the politically potent dispute between the government and rancher Cliven Bundy in Nevada, so it bears repeating: Abbott is running for governor in November.
Bundy has become an evocative symbol for conservatives, an actual cowboy who insists that he has the right to let his cattle graze on land that, he claims, his family has used for generations. The government — in the form of the BLM — has fined Bundy about $1 million over the years for his refusal to accept grazing limits established for environmental protection. Nevada Sen. Dean Heller called Bundy and those who came to back him up (some of them armed) "patriots." (Sen. Harry Reid called them "domestic terrorists.")
There's plenty of politics to go around. When Abbott got wind of the BLM's apparent plan to transfer those 90,000 acres, he sent the agency a strongly-worded letter. "As Attorney General of Texas," it reads, "I am deeply troubled by reports from BLM field hearings that the federal government may claim — for the first time — that 90,000 acres of territory along the Red River now belong to the federal government." He outlines the history of the area, located along the Red River that forms much of the boundary between Texas and Oklahoma. "I am deeply concerned about the notion that the BLM believes the federal government has the authority to swoop in and take land that has been owned and cultivated by Texas landowners for generations," Abbott wrote, consciously echoing the language Bundy has used to mobilize conservatives to his cause.
In its write-up of Abbott's letter, Fox News didn't mask its inclination. "Texas officials are raising alarm that the Bureau of Land Management, on the heels of its dust-up with Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, might be eyeing a massive land grab in northern Texas," it writes. 90,000 acres, for those curious, is a lot of land in some contexts. In the context of Texas, it is 0.05236 percent of the state.
But it's not clear that the BLM plans to actually try and acquire that parcel of land that size, or any parcel of land. Buried somewhat lower in that Fox News article is this sentence: "It’s unclear how seriously BLM might be looking at laying claim to additional boundary land." It cites information from Texas Rep. Mac Thornberry, who provides background on the dispute at his website. In short, the BLM is "beginning the process to revise its 1996 Range Management Plan" that could affect some or all of those 90,000 acres. The agency is now holding public meetings on the topic.
There's an important point to note about Thornberry's information: He's been working on this with the BLM for months, as the agency goes through its process of getting input. Abbott's concern appears to be much newer. For some reason.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.