Bruce Vincent’s family logging company recently purchased its first timber sale from the U.S. Forest Service in 15 years.
For Vincent, it’s the light at the end of the tunnel for timber communities. The public is beginning to understand what forestry offers, he said, pointing to the Healthy Forest Initiative as common ground. A third generation logger from Libby, Mont., and president of Environomics, a public relations firm, Vincent will speak to FFA members during the Spokane Ag Expo and Pacific Northwest Farm Forum about what he learned during the “timber wars” in the early 1990s, when environmental activists challenged timber practices in public forests.
Vincent was working to organize on behalf of forest families and communities. He said he learned at the time the difference between fighting and leading.
“It was very easy to fight,” he said. “It’s a much more difficult situation to identify what a solution might look like, listen to the public, hear what they’re saying, don’t be tone-deaf, understand that even if their concerns do not seem rational to us, they’re valid and real concerns to the public.”
Industries need to form answers to lead the discussion and identify solutions they can live with that are acceptable to the public, he said.
When he’s asked what he would do differently, Vincent said he would humanize the industry.
Urban residents tend to think of large companies when thinking of timber and agriculture, he said.
“Those are mythical flowcharts in the sky and there are real people who inhabit those flowcharts, real communities engaged,” he said. “We need to humanize our discussion so we’re talking person-to-person with the public.”
Empathize. “That’s what we sucked at, and by we (I mean) me,” Vincent said. “We always thought, ‘We need to educate the public because they think milk comes from a carton at (the grocery store).’ Well, before you can educate, you need to listen. God gave us two ears and one mouth. What we did early in the timber industry was, we used our mouth a lot and we didn’t use our ears nearly enough.”
Vincent would listen more to the public.
“Not laugh at what they don’t know and instead try to understand where they’re coming from,” he said. “What can I do to help them see what I’m doing is part of a solution for them?”
Listen. And not fight.
Participate. “A business line item for every farmer in the future ought to be advocacy, activism, listening, engaging the public, talking to them, hearing them,” he said.
The American public wants a new leader in food safety and environmental leadership, based on hope instead of fear and science instead of emotion, Vincent said.
“They are tired of getting the crap scared out of them,” he said. “There’s an entire industry that’s been built on this fight. They make money on identifying a crisis and then orchestrating a fistfight. We need to not participate in that conflict industry.”
Vincent previously spoke at the Spokane Ag Expo in the 1990s.