Logger: Education stops 'insanity'

Bruce Vincent

Vincent pushes people to turn to rural America for environmental plans

By CAROL RYAN DUMAS

Capital Press

Bruce Vincent, a third-generation logger from Libby, Mont., says he has been on an mission to save rural America for two decades.

Vincent said he has seen the effects of grizzly bear reintroduction on his livelihood and community. Now, as a motivational speaker, he takes his community's plight to a broader audience. He said about 90 percent of his 50 to 60 speeches a year are to non-ag groups.

Vincent spoke earlier this month at the Idaho Cattle Association convention in Sun Valley.

Rural America is more than a place, he said, it's a sense of community and sense of purpose. But it's being threatened by urbanites and environmental policy that is evolving away from its protective origins.

"City folks call the places we live in the last best places," he said. They escape their urban homes and visit rural America, fall in love with the place and the culture and leave with a desire to protect it.

They do that by demanding more regulation and litigation, as recommended by self-styled experts like Hollywood actors.

"Rural America is being protected to death," Vincent said. "We've crossed the line between environmental sensitivity and environmental insanity.

"They're using misplaced concepts on what is going to save us," he said. "They have a vision for us that just doesn't include my community."

That vision meant the demise of Montana's timber industry, the demise of forest management and likely the demise of the forest, he said. Today, forests of Montana and the West face serious fire problems, where fires burn unnaturally hot and burn deep into the soil.

"It will take eons to grow my children's forests," he said.

Vincent said activists learned they could take a social movement and turn it into a money-making machine, one that's dependent on crisis and chaos. He calls it the piñata syndrome.

"Whack, whack, whack, 'Save the forest,' and money falls out," he said.

"We learned, stopped fighting and came up with a healthy forest plan," he said. "There's light now at the end of our very long tunnel."

Vincent predicts the next piñata will be anyone who deals with water or animals. He advised Idaho cattlemen to avoid taking part in the piñata syndrome.

"The answer is information and education," he said.

He said the public would be wise to choose management practices that have evolved on the ground by those tied closely to the land and natural resources.

"We've got to learn to make that argument," he said. "We're going to save our last best places by saving our last best people."

Online

Bruce Vincent's Web site: brucevincentspeaking.com

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