Lobbyist, activist climbs to take a break | TheUnion.com

Lobbyist, activist climbs to take a break

Brian Vincent, Nevada County’s answer to the Chicago Seven, insists he’s trying to behave.

Vincent, who landed in jail last year after leading grass-roots organization Yuba Nation to two June 2000 protests against logging firm Sierra Pacific Industries, called from Washington, D.C., earlier this week – but he’s not in charm school there.

He’s working for the American Lands Alliance, lobbying members of Congress on an energy bill.

“There are lots of provisions to facilitate oil and gas development on public lands in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge,” Vincent said. “I’m keeping a close tab on that.”

Vincent said blues singer and guitarist Bonnie Raitt paid most of the fines and legal fees Yuba Nation members racked up in 2000 and 2001.

Nevada County Superior Court Judge John Darlington ordered the Yuba Nation Five last year to pay $3,263 in restitution to loggers and a trucker whose work they disrupted. Vincent was put on two years’ probation in January.

“Obviously, I need to behave myself,” he said. “I’m not supposed to do anything that would be considered an illegal activity, or there’s a consequence.”

Vincent rolled into the nation’s capital two weeks ago after a six-month rock climbing trip through Yosemite; Squamish, Wash.; Joshua Tree National Park and Bishop in Inyo County.

“It’s nice I took a break for six months,” Vincent said about his leave of absence from ALA. “This is pretty intense work … lobbying grass-roots organizations and social activists. Climbing is a chance to go out and enjoy nature.”

Vincent discovered climbing when he was a lobbyist on the East Coast, but has been rock climbing the last few years in California. He’s been living in a 1983 Volkswagen minibus “so I can save up money and climb,” he said.

“There’s a whole community of climbers who travel, almost together,” he said. “The climbing community is like a tribe. They come from all over the world and many walks of life.”

Bishop and Yosemite are world-renowned destinations for rock climbers all over the world, he said. “Bouldering” – a particularly tough type of rock climbing in which climbers negotiate rocks “as big as a house without a rope,” Vincent said – “attracts a skateboard-type crowd” to Inyo County, he said.

“It’s intense. You’re stressing your body,” he said. Most of the climbers interested in bouldering are young, about 19 to 25, and “incredibly strong.”

“They don’t have that fear of mortality,” Vincent, 40, said. “I was definitely the grandfatherly one of the crowd.”

Vincent says he doesn’t plan to chain himself to anything but work in the near future.

“My organization asked me to come out to D.C. to work on the roadless and the energy bills,” Vincent said. “I’ll go back to work in Nevada City in April.”

Vincent said he has lost touch with fellow Yuba Nation members, but that they “helped spark a fire that spread.”

“There are lots of people working on an SPI campaign tracking the THPs (timber harvest plans). That didn’t exist before Yuba Nation, really. The credit goes to local Nevada County folks.”

“It’s likely when I return to Nevada County I will engage in the same kind of activity,” Vincent said.

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