Protecting Rural America
October 25, 2012
Vincent Logging, located in Libby, MT, was started in 1960. Like raising livestock or crops, logging is much like agriculture – families making a living off the land, residing in rural communities, working together with multiple generations. Bruce Vincent now owns and operates his dad's family business, and he understands the challenges facing rural America. He spoke at the 2012 Women Stepping Up For Agriculture Symposium held in Great Falls, MT on Sept. 27. He offered a snapshot of how he thinks America's farm and ranch families are faring in 2012. Vincent's presentation was titled, "With Vision, There Is Hope."
"Rural America is the last, best part of the U.S.," he said. "Our urban folks love frontiers like Montana. It's a beautiful piece of land, and one day, they hope they have enough money to buy a 20-acre mecca right outside of Billings, MT, and when they do, they want the land to be healthy. So, they go home and fight to pass legislation and regulations to protect the rural land. But, sometimes their protective measures backfire. And, while they are protecting the nation's last best places, they forget to protect the nation's best people."
Vincent referenced the Montana forest fires that have plagued the state over the summer.
"Think about cutting firewood each year and stacking it by your house, but never burning it," said Vincent. "A stack built up a couple of years doesn't just warm your house, it burns it up. That's what is happening in our forests. We aren't allowed to manage them."
He explained that the best intentions can sometimes have huge repercussions.
"When Smoky the Bear was created, the campaign encouraged folks to prevent forest fires," he said. "Unfortunately, this meant that fire suppression means that even small fires, which are nature's way of clearing dry debris, are now becoming major fires, that are causing catastrophic damage. Every time forests are tried to be better managed by loggers, they are met by challenges from litigants."
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The biggest challenge is the influence coming from Hollywood and the media.
"Logging communities are not alone; ranchers have struggles, too," he admitted. "Something is wrong when clean water should be a promise to future agriculture families, not a threat to current farm families. We are driving agriculture away from the U.S. because of professional litigants, and foreign countries are now doing the job for us. There is a difference between environmental sensitivity and environmental insanity. We have to quit listening to so-called experts like "Dr. Meryl Streep" or "Dr. Woody Harrelson, who act for a living and testify on issues like bio-chemistry. When the media prints their words as the truth, that's what drives our policy."
The Disney effect is also impacting the way consumers view things.
"Consumers think that wolves raise bunnies in the forest because of what they saw on Bambi," he said. "The Disney effect is skewing our views. In every movie, who is the bad guy? Man is."
Despite being depicted as the "bad guy," Vincent stressed that rural families involved in things like cattle ranching and logging are stewards of the land.
"Every day is Earth Day for a farmer; we are part of that environmental movement, but the movement's leadership in Washington, D.C., has moved very far to the left," he said. "The original laws have completely changed. The Endangered Species Act was created to protect animals from being unnecessarily harmed by animals; instead, it's now used to wipe out rural communities like mine. The leaders have learned to sell fear. Timber isn't the only one to be treated this way – look at oil. If you ask someone about oil, all they picture is greased-up birds. Or, how about animal agriculture? How many of you are sick of seeing the dairy cow being dragged by the fork lift on the video? That's how people view agriculture."
In closing, Vincent challenged attendees to get out and share their stories with consumers.
"Our problem isn't the Sierra Club or the Humane Society of the U.S.; they have the right to exist and market their ideas; the sad thing is they are able to sell those ideas that don't smack of reality. There lies our problem. It breeds ignorance. If we want to save rural America, we need to address ignorance. Instead of fighting the battle, we need to lead the discussion. Education is key to our success. And, politics isn't a spectator sport; get involved and support leaders who understand reality, or run for office yourself. Even if we are the minority, we can still be influential." Vincent closed.