CHECKING IT OUT — From the left, Rob Cook of ITB, keynote speaker Bruce Vincent and Rep. Llew Jones work on a few policy details after the Coalition for Common Sense Use fundraiser at Conrad’s Shooting Sports Complex Saturday night. “The issue is the environment and we have to offer the solution,” said Vincent. Photo Courtesy of Lisa Schmidt
Special to the I-O By Lisa Schmidt
Men and women from across Montana, and even Alberta, ponied up more than $30,000 Saturday to stand united for multiple use on Montana’s public lands.
The newly-formed Coalition for Common Sense Use invited ATV, snowmobile, four-wheeler, bicycle and horseback riders to the $100-a-plate fundraiser. Bruce Vincent, a third-generation logger from Libby, Mont., and reluctant yet passionate activist, keynoted the fundraiser with his advice.
“These people are intelligent. They are trying to make the right choice,” said Vincent of people who want to eliminate logging, livestock, mining and motorized recreation from public lands.
Television, with its graphic pictures and broad reach, has allowed interest groups to define environmental issues as an either-or- choice between pristine, clean water for children or stark, barren eroded soil caused by production.
“The public makes policy based on 50 years of Bambi. They want to make the right choice, but they’ve been given two extreme, wrong choices,” Vincent said. “The enemy is ignorance.”
Vincent, like many natural resource producers, has been frustrated by being on the defensive for so many years.
It’s time to look to the offense.
Vincent implored his audience to “fight ignorance. Tell the truth, ugly warts and all. Tell the truth over and over and over again.”
People who want to retain the right to use public lands in a variety of ways must become political activists, he said.
“Political power is defined as a single-issue, multi-sector voting bloc. Coalitions offer broad-based interest in a common problem,” Vincent said. “The environment is the issue. The public will not, nor should they, accept information or align themselves with anti-environmental groups. People don’t care about our job; it’s their environment. We need to focus on what’s in it for them.”
He listed his three truths about becoming an activist:
Truth 1: Democracy works, but it is not a spectator sport. Take a stand.
Truth 2: When people lead, leaders follow. Define what this area should look like in 100 years, define our vision and then fight for our vision.
Truth 3: The world is run by those who show up. Attend meetings, write blogs, and send letters to the editor.
“We’re all busy, but add one line to your life plan,” Vincent said. “Include one hour per week for activism. You are the expert. Take time to be that expert.”
Offer the Environmental Solution
Vincent spoke to more than 300 of the 450 Coalition for Common Sense Use members at Conrad’s new Shooting Sports Complex. The Coalition includes recreationists and natural resource producers from Pondera, Toole, Teton, Liberty, Chouteau, Glacier, Cascade and Lewis and Clark counties.
Coalition members first intend to file a lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service after a new management plan banned motorized vehicles from the 130,000-acre Badger-Two Medicine area in the Lewis and Clark National Forest. Long-term, the Coalition hopes to vocalize the reasons and vision for multiple uses on Montana’s public lands.
Fundraiser coordinator and Coalition president Llew Jones was ecstatic at the enthusiasm and commitment from the enormous, packed room.
That passion reflected what Representative Jones (R-Conrad) has seen and heard across Montana.
“The polls — the polls that are conducted across the state, not the ones that sit outside Yellowstone Park and ask visitors as they enter — show 80 percent of Montanans support multiple uses. What’s nice about this group is the growing sense that responsible resource management is there and keeps improving,” Jones said. “We need to provide a message of hope to people and this group can do that.”
Although people with various recreational interests often bicker among themselves, Jones thinks this coalition will overcome their differences.
“Each of us needs to give others the right to have a different perspective because unity is strength. We need to leave our differences at the door,” he said.
“We can’t forget that the enemy is ignorance and we must address the enemy,” said Vincent, who speaks at universities and conferences across the country. “America is ready to hear our message.”
If you would like to learn more about the Coalition for Common Sense Use are encouraged to contact any of the board of directors. Those CCSU directors include:
President Llew Jones, Conrad, at 271-3104; Vice presidents Vern Greyn at 472-3402 and Jim Bartsch at 753-2334; Cascade County directors Russ Ehness at 899-0898 and Daniel Jones at 781-7983; Chouteau County directors Roy Hollandsworth at 788-5027 and Joy Trunk at 739-4437. Glacier County directors Jim Fortune at 226-9304 and Bud Biegler at 873-2336 and Lewis and Clark directors Russ Bean at 562-3616 and Rick Ripley at 562-3502.
Pondera County director Bill McKinley at 289-0432; Teton County director Harold Yeager at 466-2955; Toole County directors Gary Seubert at 434-7122 and Russ Seubert at 434-5211.
To find out more about Bruce Vincent and his efforts to educate people, visit www.providerpals.com.