U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton is pursuing legislation to make sure property owners near public lands don’t wake up one day to discover the government now owns their land.

It’s every westerner’s nightmare, and apparently it’s happening enough to require legislation giving some protections to private property owners.

“We’ve heard from farmers, ranchers and others across the West who have faced fines and criminal charges, or have been forced to relinquish property they believed to be their own following BLM resurveys and reclassifications of federal land,” said Tipton.

Tipton’s bill requires the BLM to notify all adjacent property owners when these surveys arise at least 30 days before.

If it turns out the government says it made a mistake a century or so ago and that land actually belongs to them, there is a process to give the property owners some rights, such as first refusal to purchase the land, or to be reimbursed for all of the improvements they made to the property.

“Families who in some cases have lived and worked on the land for multiple generations shouldn’t be punished for surveying errors that were originally made by the federal government, and the REAL Protection Act is a common sense policy that protects these landowners,” Tipton said.

It is sad this legislation is even needed, including protections against charging private property owners with trespassing on land they thought was theirs.

We hope to see this bill pass quickly, and for the rest of the Colorado delegation to sign on as sponsors.