Congress Hears Testimony on Eco-terrorism

Congress Hears Testimony on Eco-terrorism

More than just threats

By: Staff  Date: 06/30/1998 Category: | Animal Legislation |

The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime spent an afternoon listening to testimony about environmental terrorism in early June, about 10 days before a new rash of attacks against Wyoming ranchers.

On June 9, the committee heard from Representative Frank Griggs, whose office was trashed by masked demonstrators protesting the acquisition of an old-growth forest in California, from the Congressman's staff, and from several private property rights advocates.

On June 15, the Wyoming Stockgrower's Association held its annual conference in Casper, Wyoming; during the following week, more than $100,000 in damage was done to fences on area ranches. A group identifying itself as "Islamic Jihad Douglas Division Ecoterrorists" left a note at one site, but no one has been arrested.

"On October 16, 1997, my Eureka, California District Office was rocked by what sounded like a thunderous explosion," Riggs told the committee. "In fact, the sound was that of a 500-pound tree stump being dumped off a truck onto the office foyer floor. Upon responding to the horrific sound, my two female staff members were greeted by the visage of several Earth First! terrorists, one wearing a black ski mask, and another wearing dark goggles and a hood. The masked marauders - wearing combat boots and dressed in black from head to toe - and their cohorts, after the initial "stump drop," then dumped four large garbage bags of sawdust, pine needles and leaves all over the congressional office, over computers, desks and the floor. All the while, one of them videotaped the attack with a handheld video camera, making a point to get right into the faces of each of the two staff members for 'close-up' shots."

Riggs said his office was targeted because he helped craft the deal that saved 7500 acres of the Headwaters Forest and surrounding property by compensating the Pacific Lumber Company, owners of the land.

"The environmentalists, specifically Earth First!, wanted 60,000 acres preserved: an amount that would end all logging in Humboldt County and leave over 1000 people out of work in an already depressed area where unemployment hovers over 10 percent," Riggs said. "But Earth First! wanted more and they were determined to terrorize any one who opposed them."

Bruce Vincent, president of Alliance for America and manager of his family's logging company, has worked to conserve forests in Montana and to recover grizzly bears in their native range. Vincent told the committee that he and his family have been subjected to harassment and death threats.

"The calls, at first, were nothing more than irrational ramblings of persons who would not give their names but with whom my views disagreed," Vincent said. "A few unsigned letters with vicious statements of disapproval were sent that echoed the sentiments of the phone callers. No threats were made - just statements of disagreements with requests for me to 'shut up.' During the summer of 1989, however, the nature of the calls began to change. The dialogue of the perpetrators began to get more and more vicious and the disagreements and request to have me 'shut up' began to be coupled with threats about 'getting me' if I didn't 'shut up.'

"In the summer of 1989, the threats became more than just idle. While working on a job in the Kootenai National Forest, our company's equipment was sabotaged. Dirt was put into the engine of one of our dozers. When the dozer engine failed my father was, thankfully, operating the dozer on flat ground. . . . had the failure occurred on the steep ground my father would have been the jockey of an out of control, 50 ton, deadly projectile."

In spite of the threats and vandalism, Vincent continued to speak out. The FBI and local authorities were notified but said they could do nothing unless the threats were carried out. More than once, the Vincent children were removed from school by authorities and taken to a safe house when the threats became more and more graphic.

"Soon, the threatening phone calls turned from focusing on harm to be done to myself to harm to be done to my children," Vincent said. "Callers threatened, in graphic detail, to do acts of sexual and physical torture to my children before killing them. I was told that I would be forced to watch. One caller played a recorded version of a song written about my children, another was a recording of children screaming in pain and terror for their mother to 'help me, help me, help me.'"

Both Vincent and Barry Clausen identified the Earth First! manifesto Ecodefense: A Field Guide to Monkeywrenching as a handbook of plans for sabotage of logging equipment and ranches. Vincent referenced the book in his Congressional testimony and Clausen wrote of it in his report on the fence-cutting on Wyoming ranches. Clausen said that the book lists several methods of ranching sabotage, including damaging salt blocks, livestock tanks, water development projects, and water troughs, and Vincent said that logging equipment from his company and others was damaged in ways outlined in the book.

Clausen is asking people to call Senator Orrin Hatch, (R-UT) chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and ask for full Senate hearings on eco-terrorism. Vincent and Ron Arnold, executive vice president of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, asked the House sub-committee to consider amending the Animal Enterprise Protection Act of 1993 to include natural resource workers and logging, fishing, mining, energy, and ranching businesses.

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All Authors Of This Article: | Norma Bennett Woolf |
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