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When greenies go nuts: tales of the eco-11 terrorists
Seattle Times staff columnist
Charges against individuals who reportedly formed a ring of ecoterrorists is good news for the Northwest and a validation for the FBI, whose agents persisted over long years to assemble evidence of arson and property destruction.
At a news conference Friday, the feds disclosed 65 counts against 11 people for criminal behavior in acts linked to ALF and ELF — the Animal Liberation Front and the Earth Liberation Front. Eight of the eco-11 are in custody. In the bucolic Pacific Northwest, where nature is an icon and tree-hugging is serious, the liberation-fronters perform the role of the Bad Seed. They take environmentalism to the point of dangerous absurdity.
The indictments, if proven in court, tell a tale of berserk behavior, of careers and good work damaged, all in the name of the Earth. The Earth is a false god if it means concocting explosive gel with soap shavings as the stabilizer.
Three men and women, all in their 20s, were arrested this month in a Kmart parking lot in Sacramento, Calif., in possession of bleach, glass cleaner and other items useful in preparing a bomb. One of the men also had on him drawings of the U.S. Forest Service's Institute of Forest Genetics in nearby Placerville at the edge of the Eldorado National Forest, according to the Associated Press.
Federal agents believe the 11 individuals may be responsible for 17 acts of ecoterrorism across a span of Western states. The damage includes felling high-tension wires, torching lumber-mill offices and a slaughterhouse, and firebombing a ski resort in Vail, Colo., causing a $12 million loss.
Closer to home, the arson of a horticulture center at the University of Washington by ecoterrorists made as much sense as driving long spikes into trees to make them safe. The liberation-fronters, bizarrely believing they do good work, are estimated by the FBI to be the country's No. 1 internal terrorist threat. The FBI said they caused about $100 million in damage since 1997, according to the AP.
They don't target or harm people, is the defense used by the ecoterrorists, but of course they do. They harm families and research, paychecks and public wealth. They stain environmentalism with their unbalanced fervor. The individuals appear as normal as the trees, but with secret lives of destruction — a firefighter, a Southwest bookstore owner and a health-care worker for the disabled are among those found and charged. One committed suicide in jail, others appeared at the courthouse in Eugene, Ore., smiling the smiles of the righteous.
There is a question about ecoterrorism that environmentalists from Eugene to Juneau should ask themselves. Is it not enough to decry the eco-11's violence but silently agree with their goals?
Torching a horse slaughterhouse is still arson, and wrecking some SUVs or high tension wires is still about a violent means to an end. The person thought responsible for the Vail fire is also the prime suspect for the 2001 fire at the University of Washington Center for Urban Horticulture.
Much is said and written about the fragility of the wild, about the ocean currents and the melting ice. Those caught in California were thought to be targeting fish hatcheries next, and maybe a cell tower. There's a good way to get people of the Northwest on your side — kill fish and cut off cellphones.
Ecoterrorism cannot be wrapped in justification any more than terrorism anywhere, for whatever crackpot dreams.
James F. Vesely's column appears Sunday on editorial pages of The Times. His e-mail address is: firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company