Testimony of Bruce Vincent
Alliance for America
Subcommittee on Crime
Hearing on Ecoterrorism
Dear Committee Members,
Thank you for the opportunity to comment to you on the issue of eco-terrorism.
My name is Bruce Vincent. I am from Libby, Montana, a small timber and mining town. I am
currently the President of Alliance for America, an umbrella group for several hundred farming,
ranching, mining, logging, fishing and private property grassroots groups throughout America.
My day job is business manager for our small family company that is involved in the practical
application of academic forest management theory, Vincent Logging.
For the past ten years I have been thoroughly involved in local, regional and national attempts to
make sense of the laws governing the management of the public forest resource that I live in,
work in, play in and love. I volunteer as executive director of Communities for a Great
Northwest – a group that has, for ten years, provided input on forest resource management in our
area and has made a decade long commitment to good faith efforts at working in a productive
relationship with the forest service. I help coordinate the Kootenai Forest Congress – a local
group of resource managers, conservationists, and community leaders that has developed and is
working hard at moving toward a vision of the future for our forest that includes healthy
ecosystems and healthy social and economic systems. I am a ten year member of our Grizzly
Bear Community Involvement Team – a broad based group that attempts to work with the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service in recovering the grizzly bear in our ecosystem.
I am from an area that does not expect easy solutions to our forest management problems – and
is ready, willing, and able to work hard on the difficult choices we feel can and must be made if
we are to achieve our vision. I am here today to share with you one of the tragic consequences
of this involvement that is as painful as anything I have had to deal with in my life.
I have been, my family has been, subjected to eco-terrorism.
When I first started speaking out about my personal belief that the existing environmental
legislative and regulatory regime was in need of reform I was completely unaware of the dark
side of the debate I naively thought of as based upon simple disagreement of fact. At first, the
consequences were fairly innocuous. I began receiving letters and phone calls from unknown
individuals that were extremely upset with my views.
The calls, at first, were nothing more than irrational ramblings of persons who would not give
their names but with whom my views disagreed. A few unsigned letters with vicious statements
of disapproval were sent that echoed the sentiments of the phone callers. No threats were made -
just statements of disagreements with requests for me to “shut up.” During the summer of 1989,
however, the nature of the calls began to change. The dialogue of the perpetrators began to get
more and more vicious and the disagreements and request to have me “shut up” began to be
coupled with threats about “getting me” if I didn’t “shut up.”
In the summer of 1989 the threats became more than just “idle.” While working on a job in the
Kootenai National Forest our companies equipment was sabotaged. Dirt was put into the engine
of one of our dozers. When the dozer engine failed my Father was, thankfully, operating the
dozer on flat ground. Since the hydraulics on this particular 100,000 pound machine are directly
connected to the engine and since the hydraulics make the brakes of this machine work, had the
failure occurred on the steep ground my Father would have been the jockey of an out of control,
50 ton, deadly, projectile. Further, the brake lines on one of our dump trucks were cut and the
hydraulic lines on one of our excavators were cut. Since laborers worked under the excavator
boom and the boom was controlled by its hydraulic system, we were fortunate to discover the
imminent failure of the boom before anyone was physically injured. During this same time
period, other local logging contractors had equipment sabotaged but, unfortunately, no one was
While the approach to the equipment sabotage was exactly as outlined in Dave Foreman’s Earth
First! book “Ecodefense: A Field Guide to Monkey Wrenching,” the terrorists did not leave a
calling card and slipped away. Although no one ever stepped forward to take credit for the
actions against our company and other companies attacked that summer, it is worth noting that
the newsletter “Wild Rockies Review” issued a call to actions in the inland northwest two
summers later. The advertisement for eco-terrorists included a drawing of a burning dozer
situated on a map of northwestern Montana with the caption of “Burn That Dozer.” Posted on
campuses throughout the area, the advertisement’s plea went to students looking for summer
work and promised room and board for those wanting to spend the summer terrorizing resource
workers and managers.
Shortly after our equipment was sabotaged, the phone calls and the viciousness of those calls
escalated. I phoned the authorities and asked for help. I was told that unless I could prove that I
had been harmed, there was nothing that could be done.
During this same period, a group of extremists in Missoula, Montana, developed a short skit in
which I was portrayed as a hunter of animals along with then U.S. Representative Ron Marlenee.
At the end of the skit, as performed and videotaped on the steps of the federal building in
Missoula, I was shot and killed to protect the animals. The fear that this caused within myself
and my family was understandable.
In the fall of 1989 the CBS news magazine, “60 Minutes,” called and asked if I would be
available for an interview on eco-terrorism. I participated in the show and it aired in the spring
of 1990. Shortly after the “60 Minutes” show aired, the producer of the news magazine called to
tell me that the CBS studio had received an inordinate number of phone calls from persons who
were asking for the address of Earth First!. The producer was concerned that by airing the show
CBS may have inadvertently focused unwanted attention on me and my family since the callers
seemed to be happy to learn that there was an avenue for expressing the hatred that they felt.
The producer’s warning proved prophetic.
Soon, the threatening phone calls turned from focusing on harm to be done to myself to harm to
be done to my children. Callers threatened, in graphic detail, to do acts of sexual and physical
torture to my children before killing them. I was told that I would be forced to watch. One
caller played a recorded version of a song written about my children, another was a recording of
children screaming in pain and terror for their mother to “help me, help me, help me.” Finally,
my local sheriff installed phone traps on my phone line – but because of the antiquated system of
phones in our area, the trapping was not effective if the call originated outside the lata, or area,
of our local phone company. No one was ever trapped or caught.
With the aid of Senator Conrad Burns office, the FBI and state authorities were called in to the
situation and again informed me that until something happened there was little that they could
do. It was suggested that I carry a concealed weapon and that I teach my wife and children how
to handle and fire a gun. What type of investigation was attempted of those who could be a
threat to me and my family was never made clear. I was alerted on occasions where it was
thought that I should “be careful” when giving speeches. For a “Cowboy/Logger Day
Celebration” in Missoula, Montana, Rep. Marlenee and I were both told that there was reason to
be concerned for our safety. Authorities in Sweet Home, Oregon, fitted me with a bullet proof
vest for a speech in Oregon and my family was given protection on a tightly secured visit to the
Lincoln County, Montana, and other local authorities and the schools worked out a system of
removal of my children from schools or home to safe houses when a threat was made. Our
home, located in a sparsely populated area twelve miles south of our small town, was given
additional security by the local state patrolmen. We purchased a large dog. We put security
systems on our home. We went for periods of time where our children were not allowed to
answer the phone for fear of them getting a direct link to the lunacy.
The impact of these acts upon my family have been marked. When the threats started my four
children were aged three through twelve. We held numerous family meetings to determine
whether or not we should continue our involvement in the debate over our future. We sought
and got family and pediatric therapy to deal with the stress. The decision of my family has been
consistent – faced with either shutting up as requested or speaking out so loudly that we make a
highly visible and therefore, hopefully, poor target – we chose to speak out.
My family is not the only family in America feeling this terror. Although there are many who
elect to “shut up” (and I will never judge or disagree with that decision), there are some who are
speaking. Cathi Peterson, a skidder operator in the Sierra Nevada has been a victim. Dean
Bryant of Blue Ridge, Georgia, has had threats and equipment sabotage enter into his family
business of logging. Candy Boak of Willow Creek, California, has given up her pro-timber
activities for fear of her life and that of her family. John Campbell, a timber industry executive
from Scotia, California, has had his home firebombed.
My family speaks openly and candidly with each other about our situation. We were assured by
the authorities with experience that most terrorist threats were just that – threats – and that the
odds of anyone actually carrying out one of the threats was minute.
Thankfully, the calls and threats have subsided. I wish I could say the same about the feelings of
terror in my family. I believe, I desperately want to believe, that the authorities are right and that
the hate-mongers feel satisfied by making simple and idle threats. But, what if some self
anointed rambo of the eco-terror mind-set acts upon a threat and attacks more than just my
logging equipment. It is in this one small word – but – that the power of terrorism is real and
palpable in my life. “But” and “what if” are horrifying thoughts to have when you are hundreds
or thousands of miles away from home.
As the father of four children I will go to my grave wondering if I have made the right decisions.
Should I have let the terrorists win and gone quietly about the business of letting them run
roughshod over my civil liberties? That seems unthinkable…but I question the wisdom of
standing behind my six year old daughter, weeping quietly as I took the advice of the authorities
and taught her and her siblings how to shoot. I wonder if I have made the right decision in
speaking at this hearing. I am supposed to protect my children and exercising my first
amendment right, speaking out on the environment – has exposed them to terrorists.
In a free country, those who perpetrate the acts that generate terror should be punishable by law.
Please help make that possible.
I ask you today to consider legislatively amending the Animal Enterprise Protection Act of 1993
to include the natural resource workers and industries of logging, fishing, mining, energy and
ranching. That Act federalized crimes of property damage over $10,000, and or resulting in any
dismemberment or any death to a human being as a result of criminal syndicalism but is
currently narrower in the scope of protected sectors of our public than it should be.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify.
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