Q: You have gone out of your way to raise the question about whether you personally feel very much sympathy with the conservationist/preservationist side of your responsibilities -- your comments about disliking hiking, being bored in the Grand Canyon, etc .

A. Your question's not true. If you look at the context of that quote, which has been so unfairly treated, I was talking to the concessionaries about policies that would take the motors off rafts in the Grand Canyon. I've done that. I know those values, and in my judgment we're going to have multiple use of that river as long as it doesn't destroy the resource base.

Then the next guy says, "Well, I have a stables concession in some park, and I'm afraid that they're going to take the horses away because they don't want the horses in the park." In a rollicking, frolicking good time, I said, "Don't worry about that. The horses are a legitimate recreation experience, I don't like to walk or paddle," and everybody laughs. So one phrase is taken out of context -- Dan Rather says that we have a secretary who doesn't like the outdoors. It's an unfair charge, and I resent it.

Q. When you have to trade off these multiple uses, what sort of value do you assign to the intangibles, to the unidisturbed value of wilderness, to the future generations ?

A: You're asking me to quantify the setting sun. I can't quantify it for you, it's unquantifiable. But the record is clear and abundant, if you'll read the nationwide outdoor recreation plan that I authored [while director of the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation from 1972 to 1975]. And you have to look at a life style and see where a guy's coming from. I was born in the West, I've lived in the West. That's my heritage. One of the criticisms I get is that "you're so much of a westerner." Yes, I am, because I'm a man of the land, and I spend my entire youth working on the ranch.

I know the land of the West differently from the way some of you know it. Some of you know it the first two weeks in August, but I know it with the bitter coldness and the winds and the driving rains. I've fixed the fence, I've pumped water for the cattle. I know the land, and it's important to me because the wealth of a nation springs from its land. That's got to be taken care of. Those of us who have built an environment within an environment of the fragile West know how to balance those needs, and so we take care of that land because our cattle must live for year after year after year.

Do I believe in grazing the land? Yes. Do I believe in pumping water and storing water? Yes, because we have put a man-made structure, a man-made environment within the West. Some of you called it the Great American Desert and bypassed it, some of your ancestors. My grandmother came in a covered wagon from St. Louis, and we homesteaded.My father graduated from Nebraska Wesleyan and, degree in hand, went back to Wyoming and homesteaded the land adjacent to his father's place, as did his other seven brothers and sisters, and that's the family ranch.

I like to ski, I like to hunt, I like to be there. I enjoy that land, and I wanted to raise my family there.

So how do I tell you that I have these values? I can't prove it. You can't prove you're better environmentalists than I, and vice versa.

Q: Among your other jobs, you're probably going to be the chief referee this summer if drought continues, You'll have all these conflicting interests. How do you prepare yourself for what may be coming this summer ?

A: The structure of America is that waters are to be regulated by the states. We have a day of reckoning coming because we have not built adequate storage, transportation facilities or flood control programs. The present drought may be the best thing that could ever happen. Hopefully, it will make us wake up to the problem of the '90s -- water shortages.

I considered energy to be the extreme problem of the '70s. Minerals are going to be the problem of the '80s. And water will be the problem of the '90s. It will probably take a traumatic experience to get America's attention. And we don't have that capability to really be the referee and the states are going to have to focus on it and go back and build the storage facilities. And a hue and cry is going to come up from these preservationist.

Now my western native area has 50 percent of the coal of America, 90 percent of the uranium, 100 percent of the oil shale that can last us all by itself for 1,500 years, coal that will last us 500 years. But it's short of water, it's a fragile harsh environment, it's short of people.

I fear for the day when the industrial Midwest and the New England states wake up to the realization that jobs have gone to the Sunbelt and the West so much that They've lost their political base. And why -- because our costs of importing OPEC oil are much greater than burning Wyoming coal in Wyoming and Utah and Houston. Why should we lose our jobs, when the wealth of the world's energy is right here in America? I fear the political people will come to Washington from those areas, and they'll say there's a remedy: the private sector failed, nationalize the several industries in the energy field.

It will destroy my native West. I don't want that to happen. So the only way to keep it from happening is the development of the West's energy -- not if, but when. We must bring that development along in an orderly, proper, environmentally sensitive way to protect those values that I love.