In the wake of Oregon State University’s recent findings that post-burn logging is not healthy for forests, a timber industry leader from Idaho, Brett Bennett of Bennett Lumber Products has responded with an intimidating message to Matt Koehler, director of Missoula-based conservation group Native Forest Network.
Koehler sent a copy of Oregon State’s study to a timber industry list-serve called Pulaski-project-list on January 5. Bennett responded directly to Koehler the next day with an off-topic email advocating violence against his mother.
“You just don’t get it, do you? Take away the timber industry and quit logging and what do you have? Someone should have slapped your mother for raising you so poorly,” Bennett said in his e-mail.
Bennett didn’t respond to calls to Lowbagger.org as of press time, though messages were left on his voice mail and with his secretary asking for an explanation of his intent.
Koehler’s response to the incident was that Bennett’s remarks were “sick and twisted”.
“My passing along new scientific information should not elicit the violent response that you sent me,” Koehler said in a response to Bennett. “How dare you say that someone should have slapped my mother for raising me so poorly. This violent language is completely unacceptable and I hope it doesn’t represent the position of Bennett Lumber Products.”
Koehler pointed out that his mother has been a registered nurse for 40 years, and a life-long GOP voter who is director of the church choir. In all, a wholesome American woman.
“If you want to have a rationale discussion about national forest policy and issues related to post-fire logging, restoration and fuel reduction that’s fine and I will willingly participate in such a discussion; however, when, as the owner of Bennett Lumber Products, you suggest that my mother should be slapped because I simply pass some new scientific information along, I seriously doubt that you are willing to have a rationale discussion,” Koehler continued.
The timber industry in Idaho and Montana has long since had a reputation of using violence and harassment to intimidate conservationists from objecting to logging operations that are at times illegal and examples of poor forestry.
In places like Montana’s Ravalli County this harassment is generally regarded as legitimate politics. Some highlights of the violence include the arson of Darby resident Stewart Brandborg’s family cabin in 1996. Over the course of several years, another Darby-area resident Larry Campbell has had shots fired at buildings on his property. Law enforcement in Ravalli County is a good-old boy network tied to the timber industry. Even arson and drive-by shootings are given little investigation or play in the local press.
Where do we draw the line between flippant threats against a conservationist’s mother and the violence that occurs against greens on the ground every year? One begets the other and that is why Brett Bennett’s comments are not only unacceptable but an infringement of a civil right that is the cornerstone of America’s political system, the right to voice a political opinion without fear.
Not to mention that the absence of a true and robust debate short-changes the American countryside.
Josh Mahan is the editor of Lowbagger.org.