EcoTerrorism: A Darker Shade of Green-What happens when a commitment to save nature results in crime?
September, 1985. Henry Mountains near Hanksville, Utah. The Bromide Mine owned by Darys Ekker is sabotaged by unknown hit-and-run ecoteurs who put a valve-grinding compound and salt mixture in the engines of every piece of equipment, from big four-wheelers down to chain saws stored inside tool chests. The resulting $175,000 worth of damage put Ekker's family out of business. The vandals had followed directions in a book by Earth First co-founder Dave Foreman: EcoDefense: A Field Guide to Monkeywrenching. Garfield county Sheriff investigates but cannot track the suspects.
October 3, 1996. Helena, Montana. Ronald J. Constable, 27, is sentenced in federal court to one year in a federal penitentiary for tree spiking in a 1993 incident near Essex, Montana. An undercover FBI agent tracked Constable's prints from the forest site--where massive damage also was done to a contractor's logging equipment (not a federal crime)--and discovered Earth First literature in his apartment. Constable admits affiliation with the group.
March 11, 1997. Salt Lake City, Utah. Six pipe bombs explode in the Fur Breeders Agricultural Co-op. Five detonate under mink-feed delivery trucks in the factory parking lot, while the sixth starts a fire that demolishes the administrative and computer offices of the main building. Two families living on the site narrowly escape injury. Total damage reaches over $750,000. Animal Liberation Front (ALF) activist Douglas Joshua Ellerman, 19, is indicted June 19 in U.S. District Court on 16 counts of bombing the feed factory. He disappears into the ALF underground, detectives believe, probably escaping to hideouts in either Seattle or Nashville.
July 17, 1997. Olympia, Washington. Environmentalist Brette L. Clubbe is charged with damaging a $380,000 mechanized tree cutter belonging to Herbrand Logging of Eatonville, Washington, and pointing a rifle at Keith Herbrand, its owner/operator. Clubbe is booked into the Thurston County jail and released on bail.
This is the face of "ecoterror," unlawful acts committed to save nature. More than a thousand cases have been reported since the first Earth Day in 1970, but the actual count is at least triple that, and probably much higher. Ecoterror is one of the most under-reported crimes of the 1990's.
The epidemic is getting worse, yet public awareness remains practically zero. The few media reports that do see print seem isolated and insignificant.
For example, the Manchester Union Leader reported on a June 16, 1997, incident in Shelburne, New Hampshire, in which Native Forest Network activist Paul Daniel White, 22, chained himself to equipment at a wood chipping plant. He was arrested and charged with criminal trespass and conspiracy. State Police Corporal Timothy Hayes said White and four unidentified activists protesting Forest Service timber sales did more than $1,000 in damage, deflating tires on trucks, tearing out electrical conduits, and destroying telephone lines.
The Washington Post reported on a June 29, 1997, incident in Arlington , Virginia, involving 200 animal rights activists who attacked a crowded McDonald's hamburger restaurant, chanting "Meat is murder." Protesters harassed employees and customers, including terrified children, for more than two hours. Police in full riot gear arrested 18 animal rights activists on criminal trespass charges. Three of the 18 were also charged with vandalism for destroying property.
Unrelated crimes? Not really. The original line separating these two factions of ecoterrorists--the Earth First-style "monkeywrenchers" and the fanatical animal rights activists--has blurred, as crossover crimes emerged around 1993. Law enforcement officers are concerned that the shadowy Earth Liberation Front and the violent ALF are acting on a recently released joint statement pledging their future unity in committing crimes to save nature.
The most visible indication of their meddling so far came this past April when Royal Canadian Mounted Police Constable Warren Ryan filed a Criminal Information with a Vancouver, British Columbia, Justice of the Peace accusing two Earth Firsters, Darren Todd Thurston, 27, and David Nathan Barbarash, 31, of four counts of attempted murder (by sending mail bombs) and 21 counts of sending a dangerous object (a poisoned razor blade) by mail with intent to do bodily harm.
Their targets included both animal enterprises and natural resource organizations, and one bomb went to a Toronto think tank that had been critical of environmental radicals. Both men have previous ecoterror convictions with sentences in Alberta prisons.
From Forestry To Restaurants
Ecoterror affects every natural resource industry, including mining, farming, ranching, oil drilling, fishing forestry, hydroelectric production, and construction of all types. It affects every animal enterprise, ranging from research facilities to zoos, from circuses to rodeos, from universities to pet breeders, from furriers to restaurants that serve meats--any establishment that uses animals. The ALF even maintains a World Wide Web site bragging of more than 600 crimes (http://environlink.org/ALF/doa/nadoa97.html).
Ecoterror crimes range from misdemeanors--such as criminal trespass and obstruction--to felony equipment sabotage, bombings, and attempted murder. Activist Fran Trutt, for example, was convicted of attempting the pipe-bomb murder of Leon C. Hirsch, chairman of U.S. Surgical Corporation, a Connecticut firm that used anesthetized dogs to teach surgeons how to use synthetic surgical staples. She was sentenced to 32 months in prison.
Why are Ecoterror crimes so under-reported that two out of three incidents never rouse the local cop shop? There are several cogent reasons: First, many victims are simply terrorized into silence. Also, industry executives fear that publicly announcing damage would merely encourage the radicals, spark reprisals, or invite copycats. Others worry about jolting shareholder confidence or intimidating customers who are reluctant to walk into a criminal's crosshairs.
The fact is that silence makes the problem worse for society, if not for the firm. The public fails to recognize the existence of a very real problem, and law enforcement underestimates the number of suspects they should be tracking.
The Struggle For Justice
Ecoterror is among the more baffling crimes for law enforcement agencies. Targets generally lie in rural areas, and even urban attacks tend toward hit-and-run night raids. To boot, the thugs leave few clues. Local law enforcement agencies rarely have the manpower to track down such elusive suspects. When culprits are arrested, as Earth First co-founder Dave Foreman was in 1989 for conspiring to blow up the power lines of five nuclear plants, it is usually the work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation or the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.
Foreman and four other Earth Firsters, caught in an undercover FBI sting operation, pleaded guilty to various felonies. The four who conspired to do the actual destruction received sentences ranging from one month to six years in prison, while Foreman, who gave them the money and instructions, got five years probation and a lowered charge of misdemeanor depredation of government property. He paid a $250 fine.
The sad truth is that most ecoterror crimes go unsolved. Worse, the FBI will not investigate most cases of ecoterror for technical reasons. That frustrates victims and discredits law enforcement.
Staying One Step Ahead
In the present circumstances, a good security program is the best guard against ecoterrorism. Law enforcement cannot be counted on to deal with ecoterror crime without positive measures on the part of potential victims. Firms that are able to track radical publications, such as Earth First Journal, can, with experience, begin to anticipate attacks or demonstrations and take appropriate measures, including advance notification of law enforcement. It has not been uncommon to discover a crime committed within weeks of seeing a published recommendation for that specific type of crime appear in Earth First Journal or other radical outlets.
On May 6, 1994, Earth Firster Suzanne Pardee sent an Internet transmission to her colleagues titled "Hunt Cows, Not Cougars." It stated, "That's right, shoot cows...They produce only 2% of the beef from 70% of the public lands...There's WAAAY too many of them. Happy Hunting."
Shortly thereafter, a series of cattle shootings began. Within a year, Tom Kelly of Tres Lomitas ranch near Deming, New Mexico, called the Luna County Sheriff to report that 20 of his cows and calves had been killed with a high velocity rifle. His neighbor lost 11 more cattle to the same weapon.
Multiply those cattle shootings by dozens of other types of ecoterror, and you have a nationwide crime wave that remains unchecked because of poor reporting and the resulting lack of public outrage necessary to drive better legislation.
Better laws would give law enforcement, particularly at the county sheriff's level, better crime-fighting tools--for example, a comprehensive database describing ecoterror suspects, their modus operandi, and criminal backgrounds.
The Bellevue, Washington-based, non-profit Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise has established an EcoTerror Response Network to gather information on all relevant crimes and post this data on the World Wide Web where anyone can scan the names of environmentalists arrested, convicted, or indicted for crimes to save nature. The address is http://www.cdfe.org/ecoterror.html. It is the closest thing to an ecoterror law enforcement database now available, and hopefully will be a positive step toward ending a very destructive and disturbing trend.
Ron Arnold is executive vice president of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise in Bellevue, Washington. His latest book, EcoTerror: The Violent Agenda to Save Nature--the World of the Unabomber, is an in depth study of the problem. This book and others by Ron Arnold can be purchased through the BlueRibbon Coalition and/or magazine: 1-800-258 3742.
-Reprinted from Mining Voice, published by the National Mining Association, December, 1997, (202) 463-2624.