Tilden, a small, unincorporated community, is the county seat of McMullen County.
McMullen is among Texas’ least-populated counties with only 707 people according to the 2010 Census.
We were on a lovely hunting ranch.
We never met the owner, never met The Company Man, never met our Gate Guard boss and didn’t have a clue what we were guarding until after we left.
We knew it had something to do with water. The gate closed out after 3 1/2 weeks.
When we were in Tilden, we also had no idea that there was a battle brewing.
As with any post here at Fork, I’m writing only about my experiences and observations. I’m neither a Texan nor a student of the law, and I certainly don’t own a ranch. I’m just a gate guard, learning as I go. I don’t pretend to know what the outcome of this dilemma should be.
A fierce battle is being waged between The Texas Army National Guard and four McMullen county ranchers.
The National Guard wants to buy 22,232 acres in the county to build a new South Texas Training Center for several nearby battalions, allowing South Texas Guard members to train closer to home.
That was before anyone was tapping the riches of the Eagle Ford Shale! Unfortunately for all involved, the land is right over the hottest oil/natural gas field in the US.
If you remember from the post I wrote earlier about The Eagle Ford shale, it covers a swath about 50 miles wide and 400 miles long. Texas is a big state. The Eagle Ford shale runs through a relatively small portion.
The National Guard wants to acquire a total of 100,000 acres statewide for training sites. About one-quarter of the total proposed land acquisition involves these four ranches in McMullen county. The land includes a 2,500 acre ranch, a 2,292 acre ranch, a 3,077 acre ranch and a 14,230 acre ranch.
The ranchers are fighting to keep their ranches. They speak out passionately about their love for their land. I would expect they also would love to keep their mineral rights.
There are still studies to be done and battles to be waged. Right now, four ranchers are afraid the Texas Army National Guard will be allowed to purchase — or take their ranches under the Texas “eminent domain” law.
The US government has used eminent domain since the Colonial days. Although I usually think of the 5th amendment as something you claim in a courtroom to protect yourself against self-incrimination, it also was written to address eminent domain.
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
Eminent domain is the right of the government to seize private property for public use in exchange for a payment of fair market value.
I have to wonder how it would be possible to calculate the fair market value of this ranch land, sitting above the Eagle Ford shale?
Rep. Cuellar has stated he hopes to have the National Guard train at the facility 63 days per year and to use the facilities to train law enforcement and possible military personnel from Mexico.
According to last month’s article in The Progress (Three Rivers Texas newspaper), Congressman Cuellar was asked, “If the ranchers are forced to sell their land, are they allowed to keep their mineral rights?”
Cuellar replied, “The first question is, do all landowners have the mineral rights? I don’t know if they do or not. That is something the National Guard will have to work out with them. The only thing I have told the National Guard is, you all need to work with the landowners as much as you can. I am sure they are all red, white and blue patriots that support the military and they will work with them to the best extent possible.”
All I know for sure is that things are getting heated down South and the Army National Guard is not considering any other land for their South Texas Training Center. It may be a long hot summer.