Federal Official Declares “Forest Service Does Not Own A Single Acre Of Land In Arizona”

On January 12, 2016, Jim Upchurch, Deputy Regional Forester for the Southwestern Region told attendees of the legislative briefing hosted by Arizona State Senator Sylvia Allen what most already knew; the federal government does not own the federally managed land within the borders of Arizona.

“About over about 100 years ago, the first chief of the Forest Service coined the phrase, “the greatest good for the greatest number,” and that phrase is still applicable today as we manage the national forests. We are trying to manage for the greatest good – for the greatest number and that is not an easy task. It is a challenging one. Within the State of Arizona we have 6 national forests and they are represented by the forest supervisors and manager here. You know them by their names: the Coconino, the Kaibab, the Prescott, the Apache-Sitgreaves, the Tonto, and the Coronado. These forests represent some of the best landscapes within the state and are really prized possessions of the citizens of Arizona,” stated Upchurch.

“Contrary to what you might have heard lately about federal ownership of lands, the Forest Service does not own a single acre of land in Arizona,” continued Upchurch. “We don’t own a single acre of any land in the United States.”

Had he concluded with that statement, his candor would have been astonishing, but he did not. Instead he told the people of Arizona their land was being managed for “not only the local population but populations of people in New Jersey, New York, and California.”

What the people of New Jersey, New York, and California see of Arizona’s forest is vastly different from what the residents of Arizona’s rural counties see. While the city slickers see great vistas, as they stroll or hike on carefully crafted paths, the people of the west see their big sky filled with black smoke.

The people of the west are being choked by the black smoke emanating from their forests as federal agencies are being choked by self-described environmental groups, who use anti-western people’s rhetoric in their fundraising materials and line their pockets with the settlements they win in nuisance suits against the government.

Meanwhile, the visitors from New Jersey, New York, and California return home to watch the national news reports of those crazy renegade ranchers in the west. They are sold the idea that those ranchers are simply anti-government radicals. They do not know that while the Forest Service and BLM allow the land to be ravaged by wildfires, it is the ranchers who are scrambling to keep the forest and range lands from going up in smoke.


Who can blame them though? The people of New Jersey, New York, and California do not understand what it means to live off the land. As a result, they do not understand that to live off the land, one must conserve and protect it.

In his book, Alligators in the Moat: Politics and the Mexican Border, Arizona rancher Ed Ashurst discusses the ravaging forest fires that have consumed range land in the southwest and the federal government that allows it. He writes of the fires set by the Mexican cartels’ mules as they cross the wide-open border.

“On May 8, 2011, Border Patrol agents tracked four illegal aliens to the Burro Springs area. A short distance ahead of where the Border Patrol agents turned around, a fire had started and several Forest Service first responders were in the area also with plans to attack the fire. Before the Forest Service personnel or the Border Patrol agents got to the place where the fire originated a short distance from Burro Springs the Forest Service employees and federal agents were given orders to evacuate. The fire would grow in stature and fame and would burn from the eighth of May until the twenty-fifth of June. The federal government would spend in excess of fifty million dollars fighting it, and it would eventually burn a total of 222,954 acres, or 350 square miles. The fire would go down in history as the fifth largest wildfire in Arizona history and would become known as Horseshoe Number Two. The origin of the fire was never officially investigated. The first responders were ordered to evacuate before they reached the exact location where the fire started,” writes Ashurst.

The Hammonds burned 140 acres and they are villainized, the cartels burned 222,954 and more.

The ranchers’ reality is something no one can really understand. One rancher described finding one of his cows tied to a tree out on a southern border land range. Because she was not free to graze, she died of starvation. He was torn up at the thought of the painful death. The cartels, who tied her there, did so to let the rancher know that his death would be as painful should he ever make a misstep.

Ashurst speaks for all ranchers when he writes, “The U.S. Forest Service is managed, or should we say, supposed to be managed under the umbrella of the United States Department of Agriculture. The very name “Department of Agriculture” connotes a sustained effort to promote a viable plan or course of action to harvest a product off the land. Sadly, in twenty-first-century America, in the case of the Forest Service (and the Bureau of Land Management), nothing could be further from the truth.”

Greenlee County Supervisor Robert Corbell told his constituents after the Allen hearing that it was important to be there and be heard. “I think that my being there for the people of Greenlee County and the state of Arizona was important. I know that these kinds of meetings are generally outside of Greenlee, but if you are not at the table and have some input on the issues then you are on the menu.”

The feeding frenzy continues. News of the ranchers and their fight keep the mainstream media busy as they slice and dice the facts to suit the radical rancher narrative. But the truth be told; you will never find a tougher, meaner, gentler, more sensitive and tree-hugging group of people in the world than the western rancher.

“The federal government is obsessed with putting a constantly increasing amount of land under its control, yet it does not increase the appropriation to care for that land. We see massive forest fires that destroy not only trees but the land and habitat for wildlife, including endangered species,” stated Arizona State Representative Mark Finchem. “Arizona has a proven track record of caring for the land it has control over. We have done a far better job than the federal agencies in caring for the land.”

Whatever the truth may be, it is the truth that will save our forests, and range lands. Until all stakeholders commit to ascertaining the truth, the western lands will be managed for the people who experience them from well-manicured paths and have no understanding or appreciation for the western way of life…. or the life of our lands.


  1. Article 1, Section 8, clause 17 of the united States Constitution states the federal govt can only own a 10 mile square for ports and forts. Yet here in AZ , beyond these so called forests, there is the Grand Canyon and also the Barry Goldwater airforce bombing range which itself is bigger than most new england States. Call and write your state rep and senator to execute thier duty under art 1 sec 8 clause 17, to remove consent of the federal goverment to use our state lands as a racketeering instrument to enter into fraudulent leasing contracts, to extract fees and fines which should go to the state of AZ or the worst, sell Native American lands to foreign mining companies in a land poaching scheme.

  2. excuse me…I have seen signs on I-10 beneath the overpas
    ses that states: “Federal Land No Trespassing” May I ask to whom those signs refer???

  3. Understand, these alphabet soup agencies have no jurisdiction, nor authority
    beyond DC. It’s time to “just say NO”, and if that means giving up PILT money, so be it.

  4. Jim Upchurch is playing with words. True the Forestry Service does not have a title on the lands. The federal government does claim ownership. Does the state of Arizona pay his salary? Does the state of Arizona write the regulations that he enforces or does that come from Washington, DC? Who collects the profits from any commercial activity off from these lands. Mr Upchurch is trying to sooth the emotions of the federal government owning half the western states with word games

  5. Tell that to the FS on the Daniel Boone in SE Kentucky, not only do they act like they own it they treat locals like criminals for being in the Forest….. out of state tags its yes sir no sir, but the locals get harassed

  6. I believe we have one solution and that is to include the Senate with the House on redistricting. For every 4.35 congressmen you have a senate seat. It is not right the small states in the east have a lock on the Senate. Take the original 13 colonies that population today is 13% of the total population and they have 26% of the represent senate. We have a
    representative republic which we elect a person to representa district. The way it is drawn today we dont have equal representation of people in congress. The expansion of the house was stopped at 435 members then went to include American claimed posession’s but denied statehood putting a senate seat out of the question for that representation

  7. The land the Forest Service and BLM manage is in the Public Domain. It is owned by the GRNERAL PUBLIC, and only heals in trust by the United States Federal Government, which has charged various agancies with management.

    The real problem is that when Arizona became a state, like all other western states, it allowed the federal government to retain primary authority to dispose of those last swats of public land. At that time, it would have been on thinkable that the federal government would just decide not to dispose of that land, and instead hold hold on to it as if it’s the government’s land. The federal government has acted in bad faith by doing so.

    And it is beyond absurd that somebody in New York or Florida or Laska or Hawaii California or any other place should claim to have equal ownership in and an equal interest in and an equal influence over the management policies of the public lands in what particular County in Arizona, or particular place in Nevada or Montana or anywhere else. The people who live in those communities where this public land is located are the ones who are directly affected by land use management practices. It is just silliness that some parties parties come to the table and call themselves “stakeholders” when they actually have no material stake whatsoever in how these lands are managed, and are not directly indirectly or even remotely affected by the land use policies on the public lands in the rural west.

    I would urge every county in the western United States to do what we did in Grant County Oregon in 2002. I drafted to ballot measures that went to the vote of the people of our county and a general election. Voter turnout was about 90%, and each measure passed with a lot of 70% majority. The first measure was an official petition to the United States Congress to cede all of the public lands with in Grant County Oregon to the county. The second ballot measure created and elected public forest commission to advocate for land use policies on public lands, and eventually to have authority to create policy and governs those public lands after they are ceded to the county.

    If anyone would like copies of the ballot measures I drafted, feel free to contact me and I will email them to you. –Nick Sheedy (nsheedy@Yahoo.com)

  8. Uh, huh, right. Constitutionally the government doesn’t own the land. But we the people don’t see it that way as the government has been DICTATING what the people can and cannot do with our land, essentially making the government the landlord, and thus OWNER, of public lands.

    This guy is just another libtard doing the bidding and being the mouthpiece of our progressive liberal and dictatorial government.

  9. So the ‘forest service’ doesn’t own it. Some federal agency certainly does, or thinks it does. The BLM? Who?

  10. Is this a contract that the state has to “manage” our lands for the people of NJ & NY?
    I think it’s time for TRUMP to negotiate a new contract. Like get the HELL off and out of our land. Enough said.

  11. there is a small track of land that is not federally controlled – following that track is no big surprise – just follow the freeway, railroad, city borders following these pathways – get off the path – it’s now become technocrat rule.

  12. Call to action

    Voters need to vocally & financially support the legislators and programs committed to reclaiming local control of our Land.

  13. After obamanation held our land and monuments hostage a few years ago to push his agenda we should have kicked the feds out of AZ then and there.

  14. I have heard in the past that ALL federal lands in Arizona were supposed to revert to the State when it was ratified as a State. Has anyone here any further info on this.

    When I was younger I used to have the “freedom” to use OUR PUBLIC LANDS for free. It can now be expensive to use OUR LAND.

  15. “nuisance suits”. People my age do not use this B.S. term. We call them what they actually are, “Frivolous Lawsuit’s”, and the judges that allow them to be heard should be FIRED. Ranchers depend on the land for their livelihood and it is in their best interests to make sure that the land stays healthy and maintained. It is the envilementalists and Nanny federal government that is the real problem.

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