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Originally published December 8, 2005 at 12:00 AM | Page modified December 8, 2005 at 9:46 PM

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Six people arrested for Northwest ecoterrorism attacks

In an nationwide sweep that targeted suspected eco-terrorists, federal authorities have arrested six people in connection with several arsons in Washington and Oregon, including a 1998 fire in Olympia that caused more than $1 million damage.

In an nationwide sweep that targeted suspected eco-terrorists, federal authorities have arrested six people in connection with several arsons in Washington and Oregon, including a 1998 fire in Olympia that caused more than $1 million damage.

The arrests were made Wednesday in Oregon, Arizona, New York, Virginia following a nine-year investigation into the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), according to the U.S. attorney's office. Each of the six defendants has been indicted in Washington or Oregon.

Among those indicted and arrested were Kevin Tubbs, 36, and William Rodgers, 40, in connection with the June 21, 1998, arson at the Animal and Plant and Heath Inspection Services facility in Olympia. Damage from this arson was estimated at $1.2 million. Tubbs and Rodgers face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison if convicted.

Also arrested were:

Chelsea Gerlach, 28, of Portland, who was charged with conspiring to destroy an energy facility and destruction of an energy facility in an attack on a Bonneville Power Administration transmission tower near Bend, Ore. on the eve of the millennium. She faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted.

Stanislas Meyerhoff, 28, and Daniel McGowan, 31, who face up to life in prison if convicted of setting fires Jan. 2, 2001, at the Superior Lumber Co. in Glendale, Ore., and May 21, 2001, at the Jefferson Poplar Farm in Clatskanie, Ore. Damage from each fire exceeded $1 million. Meyerhoff was arrested in Charlottesville, Va., where he was attending Piedmont Community College. McGowan was arrested in New York City.

Sarah Harvey, 28, a student at Northern Arizona University, was arrested in Flagstaff after being charged with a Dec. 27, 1998, fire at U.S. Forest Industries in Medford, Ore. That fire caused an estimated $500,000 in damage.

The FBI has said so-called eco-terrorist groups like ALF and ELF have been responsible for arsons and other destructive acts that have caused more than $110 million in damage across the U.S. The biggest so far was an arson at a five-story condominium under construction in San Diego in August 2003 that caused $50 million in damage.

In the Seattle area, ALF or ELF have claimed responsibility for several arsons, including several fires at homes under construction in Snohomish County in early 2004 and the May 2001 arson that destroyed the University of Washington's Center for Urban Horticulture.

Because both ELF and ALF are loose-knit organizations with little structure, authorities have had a difficult time solving many of acts of vandalism. However, there have been recent arrests and convictions in ELF-connected cases: A young man with ELF affiliation was arrested for firebombing 125 sport-utility vehicles at auto dealerships and neighborhoods near Los Angeles in 2003; and three claiming ELF membership recently pleaded guilty to the destruction of vehicles, houses and other property in Richmond, Va., during 2002.

In September, a New Jersey man pleaded guilty to setting fire to the McDonald's restaurant near Seattle's Space Needle in 2003, an act he claimed he did on behalf of ELF and ALF. Under a plea agreement, Christopher W. McIntosh, 23, of Maple Shade, N.J., will face eight to 10 years in prison when he is sentenced Dec. 16 in Seattle.

John Lewis, the FBI's deputy assistant director for counterterrorism, told a Senate committee earlier this year that environmental and animal-rights activists who have turned to arson and explosives are the nation's top domestic-terrorism threat. Groups like ALF and ELF as well as Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) are "way out in front" in terms of damage and number of crimes, Lewis said.

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Information from Seattle Times staff reporters Christopher Schwarzen and Peter Lewis and The Associated Press is included in this report.

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