Common goals: Vincent emphasizes commonalities with public
Casper – Montana logger Bruce Vincent was featured as keynote speaker at the Wyoming Natural Resources Rendezvous, held in Casper on Dec. 10-13.
“While everything is wonderful in our living rooms at home, there is a bunch of bad stuff going on in our rural community,” Vincent told members of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, the Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts and the Wyoming Section of the Society for Range Management. “How did we get where we are at, and what do we have to do to make sure our ship doesn’t turn upside down?”
Between the rural Americans who inhabit the West and urban populations, Vincent noted that visions seem to be conflicting.
“We continue to have a collision of visions, which comes because of one desire, one desire that everyone understands – a desire built on love,” he said.
As citizens of Wyoming and the West, Vincent asked how many people loved Wyoming and the natural environment of Wyoming, adding, “That is one of the reasons I moved home – clean air, clean water, abundant wildlife, things that most people have to go to see we have right outside our door.”
He further explained that the natural and cultural environment of rural America is part of the problem today, because the rest of the world has similarly fallen in love with our environment.
“When the rest of America has their two week vacation, they come from Los Angeles and Chicago to places like Wyoming and Montana, and they fall in love with the very things we love about this place,” Vincent explained. “When they leave, they leave with a desire that we share with them – a desire to protect.”
“They want to save what they perceive to be the last best part of our country, and I don’t disagree,” he continued, “but sadly, their vision for the last best places has one fatal flaw. There is no provision in it for the last best people.”
As a result, the policies that are implemented by people who think they know about the West works in theory, but not when you apply them on the ground.
“Their vision is being implemented on us, and we are being protected,” Vincent said. “We are being protected to death. My forest is being protected to death.”
Without human management of the forests, for example, he noted, “It is going to be managed by nature, and not in 25 and 100 acre clear cuts. Nature is going to manage it in half a million acre blazes that don’t file environmental impact statements.”
When citing mega fauna species, such as the grizzly bear, Vincent added that management of the forests helps such species recover.
“We learned a long time go that grizzly bears don’t eat trees,” he said. “They eat the shrubs and roots and berries that grow where the tree crops have been removed.”
The resulting landscapes also foster low, ground-hugging fires that invigorate huckleberry patches and provides for bear recovery, he continued.
“But these people want to see nature manage it,” Vincent added. “Our timber towns are not alone anymore.”
With mining and grazing also under attack, Vincent continued that policy is being misused and information is being gleaned from incompetent sources.
“Something is wrong when America is in love with the environment, but get important information on this important subject from such noted experts as Dr. Meryl Streep,” he said. “She pretends for a living.”
Vincent further noted, “The misinformation, disinformation, pseudoscience and half truths that the media prints as truth is what we base public policy on.”
But with no information other than Bambi and biased television commercials to base their opinions on, he notes that America has no engine to test these “truths.”
“The public has been told there used to be a Disney-esque eco-topia,” Vincent emphasized, “and in every single movie, the bad guy shows up – man. We are the destroyers of harmony, the destroyers of balance. We are not part of nature, we are separate from it.”
As a result, the public seeks to recreate something that never has existed.
“We are crossing the fine line between environmental sensitivity and environmental insanity,” Vincent commented.
As a result of the goal to preserve the area that America sees as the last best lands, a movement has begun, which Vincent described as “bastardizing law through regulatory regimes until they no longer resemble what they were supposed to be.”
“We understand that the economy and ecology are two sides of the same coin,” he explained. “If one of them takes a hit, the other pays the price.”
Using the tool of visual aids and television, he added that environmentalists have managed to use extremes to incite conflict and fear.
“They do it in two 20-second sound bites with a visual,” Vincent noted. “If I want to talk about forestry, they use the world’s ugliest clear cut – that is forest management by man. If they want to talk about it, they find a knuckle-dragging Neanderthal from Axmen with stuff dribbling down his chin wearing an ‘Eat Owl’ t-shirt.”
On the other hand, those trying to protect the forest have a babbling brook and mountain backdrop, with an eagle in one hand and a flag in the other, saying, “All I want is clean air for my water and my children.”
The same examples are extended demonstrating animal agriculture and mining, among other subjects.
Working toward a solution
With years of conflict behind us, Vincent also noted that it isn’t effective to create pickets or lead demonstrations because they are simply turned against the industry.
“There are three truths,” Vincent added. “Democracy works, but it is not a spectator sport. Be involved.”
By standing together in voting blocks and supporting those who support our industry, he noted that we have more power, but without participation, fragmentations expected.
The second truth according to Vincent involves leading the discussion – not fighting it.
“We confused fighting with leading, and rural America can no longer afford to have the discussion,” he said. “We have to talk to people about the two choices they have been told about. We need to ask the public what do you want to know? How can we be part of your answer?”
“When we started telling the public the truth about who we are – worts, pimples and all – we started to change,” Vincent commented.
Finally, Vincent said, “The final truth is that the world is run by those who show up.”
By joining activists to talk, rather than fight, and showing up at meetings and events, he added that something can be done. Working locally in cooperative organizations is also important.
“If we continue to work together, every young person here better hope that in 100 years, there will be another panel up here, talking about hope,” he said.
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.