MCKEEN: For years, the people that live here, we knew that the forest is overgrown. And we know it’s unhealthy. When I was a kid, Mill Creek, which comes down at Alma, my granddad had a farm up there. He had a house up there and a big barn. There used to be trout in that creek, and over the years, since all of that growth back in the wilderness and back in the forest, all the tree growth has taken that stream. In other words, the stream used to run year around. My granddad used to raise alfalfa and everybody else did along the creek. Well, it’s all gone. So all those little farms and all those gardens and all that stuff that supported people here, it’s all gone. You take any stream up here that comes out of the forest, they’re all the same. They’re gone. It’s all been soaked up with trees.
What I’m saying is, the water is all disappearing, because the forest is so unhealthy.
HCN: Is that why people are angry? Because the forest is overgrown?
MCKEEN: They want the watershed taken care of, and the Forest Service, all they want to do is preserve things. And the environmental crowd, course, they don’t want anything touched. They want more wilderness. And when you get more wilderness, what does it do? You can’t go in there to do anything...
MCKEEN: Well what they did, they kept putting fires out up here. Every time a fire starts, they put it out. If it’s a wilderness, then it’s a wilderness and leave it alone. Let it be a wilderness.
You’re the Forest Service. There’s a fire up there. What are you going to do?
HCN: Me? I shouldn’t answer.
MCKEEN: If you put it out, you get paid! Yeah, you get paid to go up there and put it out, and you get hazard pay. You get a lot of money to go put that fire out. So what are you gonna do? You’re gonna put the fire out. You’re not going to care about the environment or the watershed. You’re gonna put the fire out because it’s money in your pocket. So somebody else needs to manage the fire up there for watershed instead of the people making money off it. Look at the fire up there this time. How many millions of dollars went into the Forest Service peoples’ pockets?
HCN's title for this piece is Talking Mean With Hugh B. McKeen.
I don't see anything "mean" in his comments. I know mean rhymes with Mckeen, but a rancher and county commissioner criticizing the Forest Service and pouring his heart out over his future as a federal lands rancher is not mean.
However, my compliments to HCN for seeking out McKeen and printing the interview. It gives everyone a glimpse of what is happening to ranchers in and around wilderness areas. I just wish this could be replicated across the West.
If you really want the complete Hugh B. McKeen, get a copy of his 2011 book Liberty And Justice For All (What A Joke!) There, in 284 pages, you will find his 48 years of life's experiences as a rancher and county official. In 46 Chapters, with many photos, you'll get his take on the Forest Service, various Rangers in the Gila, the county land use movement and much more. As McKeen writes:
I have written this book to show how the lack of "Liberty and Justice" has gone on for more than 48 years for me, and I am but one of thousands who have the same situation in their business ventures. What I will say is not fiction, but after reading about my experiences and those of others, you may say that it can't be true.
If Amazon is out of the book, you can still get it straight from the publisher.