Radical Environmental Groups Break Law to Make Their Points

By Gabriel, Dan | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), April 19, 2001 | Go to article overview

Radical Environmental Groups Break Law to Make Their Points


Gabriel, Dan, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Urban sprawl means one thing to developers but quite another to self-described "radical" environmental groups who are taking "direct action" to stop it.

A group known as the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) has designated today as an international day of action when environmental activists join together and drain the resources of law enforcement authorities. This is being done in anticipation of Earth Day, which is this Sunday.

"Our Earth is being murdered by greedy corporate and personal interests," says ELF spokesman Craig Rosebraugh of Portland, Ore. "The rape of the Earth puts everyone's life at risk due to global warming, ozone depletion and toxic chemicals. We are but the symptoms of a corrupt society on the brink of ecological collapse."

ELF has claimed responsibility for setting on fire four new luxury homes in Long Island, N.Y.'s Mount Sinai neighborhood on Dec. 29. ELF claims the development endangered a large aquifer for drinking water. On the garage door to one of the homes, it scratched out the words: "If you build it, we will burn it. ELF."

This past February in eastern Virginia's Westmoreland County, hundreds of steel spikes were driven into trees at the Rock Hill Lumber company. A company spokesman says it will cost the company an extra $30,000 to $40,000 for safety precautions when it runs the timber through the sawmill.

ELF claims to have inflicted over $37 million worth of damage since its inception, and the group promises to continue its efforts. Modeled after its cousin group, the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), ELF operates in cells of one to several people.

Cells are anonymous not only to the public but also to one another. This decentralized structure helps keep activists out of jail and free to continue their actions, much as the IRA or revolutionary Marxist groups operate overseas. There is no centralized headquarters or leadership tying the anonymous cells together, making it difficult for law enforcement officials to undertake a comprehensive investigation. Similarly, there is no official ELF "membership."

ALF, too, has become increasingly active in recent months in its campaign on behalf of animal rights. On April 1, 14 beagles were stolen from the laboratory of Huntingdon Life Sciences in East Millstone, N.J. On March 17, in Beaumont, Calif., 450 chickens were stolen from Sunny-Cal Eggs, following a similar theft in June of 200 chickens.

ALF has claimed responsibility for the thefts.

The FBI says ALF and ELF are among the most dangerous terrorist groups in the country.

As fire bombings and arson attacks have increased in frequency and seriousness, eco-terrorist attacks on fast-food restaurants, leather stores, medical research labs and fur industry facilities have become a high priority for federal, state and local law enforcement. FBI Director Louis J. Freeh told Congress in February 1999 that his agency is pursuing "single-issue terrorists" involved "in the violent animal rights . . .and environmental protection movements."

Mr. Rosebraugh says his group's immediate goal is to cause economic damage, such as its Oct. 19, 1998, arson attack on a Vail ski resort in Colorado that damaged or destroyed eight separate structures and resulted in approximately $12 million in property damage. ELF claimed responsibility for the arsons in retaliation for the resort's plans to expand its ski areas, which the group claims would have endangered a lynx habitat.

On April 5, agents from the FBI, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) and Oregon State Police raided the home and business of Mr. Rosebraugh and two of his associates. He was served with a subpoena to testify before a federal grand jury later this month for an investigation into an arson attack at a Eugene, Ore. …

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