Texas rancher: How the federal government took my property - and didn't pay me one cent

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," April 22, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: It's not just Nevada ranchers. Now Texas ranchers gearing up for a fierce fight with the federal government. The ranchers bracing for what they call a land grab. But the Bureau of Land Management insists it is categorically not expanding federal holdings. What's really going on here?

Gene Hall with the Texas Farm Bureau joins us. Good evening, Gene.


VAN SUSTEREN: So, explain this dispute to me.

HALL: Well, it's happened before. The border of Texas and Oklahoma moves. The Red River, the border between the two states moves. And when that does, the way those ancient compacts are written, it's not supposed to effect private property lines. But for some reason, 30 years ago, in the case of one of our members, who went to court to preserve his property rights, he lost the case, but for some reason, the BLM now has authority over that land. We don't know why. I'm not an attorney and I can't pretend to understand it. What I know is this, that he has owned that land, some 130-some-odd acres. His family has owned it for generations for almost 100 years. Suddenly, one day after a court battle, they don't. He had paid taxes. He had clear title and a deed to it, and then suddenly, he doesn't. We're wondering under what kind of pretext the federal government could act, and why do they need to be looking at this? We were told they were coming back because they were going to take another bite. There is a 116-mile stretch of that border, so we did a video that you probably have seen, where we allowed those Texas farm and ranch families to tell their story.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, how come when -- OK, the river moves, which means that, you know, the question is then, where is the border? Is it where the river was or where is it the new edge of the river? I understand that's a little bit of the dispute. But how come the land becomes the federal land and not at least the state of Texas? I don't know why the rancher loses it, but why does the federal government get it over the state of Texas?

HALL: I'm not certain why. We can't think of a very good reason. But, we know now that some 130 acres that used to belong to Tommy Henderson is now under the control of the federal government. It's my understanding it has something to do with tribal lands and -- that were part of the land on the other side of the river. But I'm not an attorney. And I can't really debate those fine points. I don't know why. But we have seen an aggressive overreach by the federal government and in more than one instance. If you've got an agency like this that's very well funded with a lot of people involved, then you shouldn't be surprised if they are going to overreach and extend that aggressive approach.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, what the BLM is now saying is that they are categorically not expanding federal holdings along the red river. So, is this just -- I mean, is it just a fear of Texas ranchers or is BLM not playing it straight with us? Which is it?

HALL: Some of our people, who were contacted and were, told that there was a possibility that they were coming back along that 116-mile stretch that might be under federal control. We do know this happened before. We are concerned about it. Now, they are concerned about it now. And our attempt as a farm organization, Texas Farm Bureau were concerned about anything, if we are about anything its private property rights and we were invited to tell their story and explain their concerns.

VAN SUSTEREN: Gene, why would they even want this land? I mean, what are they even gonna use it for, the Feds, if they were to seize it?

HALL: We understand there's a resource management plan underway. And that's all well and good. But we believe the highest, best use of this land is in private property, 97 percent of Texas is privately owned. We have heard that there have been meetings where they discuss horse trails. That's what it's being used for now, for recreation, the land that used to belong to Tommy Henderson, our member, now being used for recreation. We think it belongs in family farms.

VAN SUSTEREN: Gene, thank you.

HALL: Thank you, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: And one long time Texas rancher who we just talked about knows first hand what it's like to fight the federal government. The Bureau Of Land Management ended up taking 140 acres of his property and didn't pay him one cent. Rancher Tommy Henderson joins us. Nice to have you join us, Tom. We were just talking about you.


VAN SUSTEREN: So, Tommy, explain you -- explain what happened. You were paying taxes on this land for -- first of all, when did you get this land?

HENDERSON: My great, great grandfather bought the land in 1904.

VAN SUSTEREN: And do you have a deed going back to 1904?

HENDERSON: Yes, it goes back to 1904, and all the taxes have been paid on it since then. I bought it from a great aunt in 1979, who didn't have any children who wanted the farm. So, I'm the fifth generation here.

VAN SUSTEREN: And you have been paying all your taxes ever since?

HENDERSON: All the taxes were paid until it was taken away from me in 1984. But all the taxes prior to that had been paid. But once BLM seized the land, I didn't feel like I owed the taxes on it anymore.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Now, why did BLM seize the land in 1984?

HENDERSON: Well, there was a court case in Oklahoma City. And we were in the Oklahoma courts. And the judge there gave it to the BLM, even though the attorney general -- U.S. Attorney General John Greene sided with us on the Texas side.

VAN SUSTEREN: So, it's because this river changed and the river moved and so, the border moved and then the question was how do you define the border where the river was or where -- or the edge of the river or where it became? Is that it?

HENDERSON: The -- underneath the repairing rights, the border moved with the river with erosion and abrasion. It stays sedimentary with avulsion. They claimed that it was avulsion but it was not an avulsion. It took 40 years for it to move. So, it was a slow and gradual process of erosion and abrasion (ph). But we never really made it to court. It was already decided before we could ever get to the courthouse.

VAN SUSTEREN: What has BLM done with this -- to 140 acres since 1984?

HENDERSON: Well, in the beginning, they didn't really want it and they asked me to file a title for it and all of that and they would get back to me. And they told me they had no money to administer it back then and, you know, to administer it or do anything with it. And so, it's just been kind of open land where everyone that wanted to has come and hunted and fished and recreated on it. And just -- they really not done anything to it. And all of the sudden here in the last six months, they have shown back up and they are talking about taking another 90,000 acres by using my court case as the precedent to seize the other land.

VAN SUSTEREN: What are they going to do with these 90 thousand acres? That's the first question. Second question is why isn't it going to the -- if anyone could take it to you or the farmers, why isn't it going to the state and instead going to the feds, BLM?

HENDERSON: Well, that's a good question except that BLM does own a little bit of land out here. And as the Attorney John Greene said, that they own the sliver of sand out there was his quote. But BLM round up with areas that's over a mile or mile and a quarter wide now.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why do they want it? What are they doing with it?

HENDERSON: Well, that's kind of an odd question, too. Is what are their plans with it? They won't talk to us or be straight with us as to what their plans are. They keep talking about taking.

VAN SUSTEREN: And they seized it without any compensation?

HENDERSON: Yes. I bought the land in 1979. As a matter of fact, I borrowed a portion of the money from Farmer's Home Administration, a government agency to purchase the land from my great aunt. And they came out and inspected the land and said it was all here, surveyed it, and forced me to buy a title policy. And when we lost it, they refused to pay, even though they said that they guaranteed the title to this place whenever I was buying it and so, I have continued to have to pay for this land or the federal government would seize everything else I had. I made my last payment this January on land that I lost in 1984 in a lawsuit.

VAN SUSTEREN: How much did you pay for that land in 1984?


VAN SUSTEREN: How much did you pay in 1984 for that land?

HENDERSON: That 140 acres was probably valued at about $60,000 then.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, we'll be watching to see what happens, see what BLM does or does not do. They say that they are not expanding their federal holdings. We will see what goes on. Thank you for joining us.

HENDERSON: Thank you.