PolitiFact Texas: Public Lands

Our weekly check-in with the Texas Truth-O-Meter.

By Emily DonahueJuly 22, 2015 9:53 am

A statewide elected official said this: “Texas still owns all of its public lands. If the federal gov’t wants to create a park, they must ask permission!”

Is that a fact?

Here to decipher fact from political posturing is Gardner Selby of the Austin American-Statesman’s fact checking team, PolitiFact Texas.

Where’d you spot this statement?

We spotted the claim in a June tweet by Glenn Hegar, the Texas State Comptroller. Before we start we should say, Texas is a big state with not a big percentage of public lands.

Texas entered the union, the United States, without the federal government laying claim to state lands, or absorbing its debts.

So only about 2 percent of Texas is held by the federal government.

Well – the second part of Hegar’s claim was that if the federal government wants to make a park, it must ask permission.

His campaign’s political director pointed out a Random Facts website that included this: “Texas still owns all of its public lands. If the federal government wants to create a park or cut a stand of timber, it must first ask the state’s permission.”

If you find it on the Internet then you know it’s got to be true! Was that the case?

A footnote on the site said that claim came from a 2003 book, “Texas: Facts and Symbols”, which we tracked down – in the children’s section of a public library. Good stuff is in there. Did you know Texas got its name from the Caddo word ‘tejas?’ But the 24-page book didn’t have anything about Texas owning its public lands or the federal government needing the state’s permission to create a park.

Does any other document exist or any other factual backup for his point that the federal government needs permission?

We didn’t find any, though it’s fair to say that when Congress or the president moves to establish a monument or park or such, sure there’s communication with the state that’s going to be home to that facility.

So what did federal agencies have to say about them needing permission from Texas?

By email, the chief historian of the National Park Service said that hurdle was new to him and not supported by any laws he could identify. It’s incorrect to say so, he said.

A spokeswoman for Hegar in his state office suggested that’s just one historian’s opinion.

In the end, how did Comptroller Hegar’s tweet fare on the Texas Truth-O-Meter?

No doubt, Texas owns its 22.5 million acres of public land. But Hegar didn’t provide, nor did we turn up, evidence that the feds must ask permission to open a park in Texas. Our editors rated this statement Half True.