Forest Service building is torched by night raiders

  • Federal arson investigators at Oakridge Ranger Station

    Robert Kaiser/Oregonian
 

A Forest Service ranger station in Oregon has become the latest target in the wave of violence directed at federal installations around the West.

The Oakridge Ranger Station, about an hour's drive southeast of Eugene, burst into flames early on the morning of Oct. 30. By the time firefighters had arrived, the 25,000-square-foot building had burned to the ground.

Besides losing the $2 million building, agency officials and firefighters watched up to $6 million in computer equipment, furniture, artifacts, files and research materials go up in smoke.

Among the items destroyed: aerial photos of the forest up to 80 years old, photo points showing spotted owl locations, tapes and notes of interviews with now-dead area residents who had worked in Depression-era CCC camps and 20 to 30 years' worth of files.

"It's a real traumatic experience, almost like losing someone in your family," said Ernie Ledbetter, a fisheries technician who has worked at the ranger station for seven years. "It's really hard to sit down and start over when you have a pencil and paper, and that's all."

It wasn't the only incident of vandalism in the area. That same morning, authorities found a Molotov-cocktail-like device on the roof of a ranger station in the neighboring town of Detroit.

Two days earlier, vandals had set fire to a Forest Service pickup truck and sprayed "Stop Raping the Forest" and other graffiti on the Detroit ranger station's walls.

As of mid-November, authorities had not disclosed whether they had any suspects in the incidents, but they believe the fire was deliberately set, since it began in several wings of the six-section building at once. The fire's location, near the highly controversial, recently quashed Warner Creek timber sale (HCN, 9/2/96) prompted speculation that the blaze could have been the work either of "eco-terrorists' or terrorists seeking to pin the blame on environmentalists.

The Sierra Club, Oregon Natural Resources Council and the nonprofit National Forest Foundation in Washington, D.C., have put up rewards totaling more than $30,000 for information leading to suspects.

A possible clue: Authorities recovered hundreds of old nails from the station's parking lot the next day, just as environmental activists found numerous nails at the Warner Creek blockade site and the site of a wedding of two activists over the summer.

The latest incident, following bombings in Nevada and New Mexico and a fire in an Arizona ranger station in the past 18 months, evoked reactions of fear and anger among Forest Service officials.

"Some people are afraid to go out in the woods by themselves, but most of us are just plain angry," said Tim Bailey, a Forest Service biologist who has worked at the Oakridge station for 18 years.

"Arson is kind of a chickenshit crime, and it comes at such a tremendous cost to taxpayers. It's a pointless thing to do."

The reporter works in Salem, Oregon.

High Country News Classifieds
  • COMMUNICATIONS AND OUTREACH ASSOCIATE
    Communications and Outreach Associate Position Opening: www.westernlaw.org/communications-outreach-associate ************************************************* Location: Western U.S., ideally in one of WELC's existing office locations (Santa Fe or Taos, NM, Helena,...
  • FREELANCE GRAPHIC DESIGNER & PROJECT COORDINATOR (REMOTE)
    High Country News (HCN) is seeking a contract Graphic Designer & Project Coordinator to design promotional, marketing and fund-raising assets and campaigns, and project-manage them...
  • FILM AND DIGITAL MEDIA: ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF INDIGENOUS MEDIA, CULTURAL SOVEREIGNTY AND DECOLONIZATION (INITIAL REVIEW 12.1.21)
    Film and Digital Media: Assistant Professor of Indigenous Media, Cultural Sovereignty and Decolonization (Initial Review 12.1.21) Position overview Position title: Assistant Professor - tenure-track Salary...
  • REAL ESTATE SPECIALIST
    To learn more about this position and to apply please go to the following URL.
  • ENVIRONMENTAL GEOPHYSICS
    "More Data, Less Digging" Find groundwater and reduce excavation costs!
  • RARE CHIRICAHUA RIPARIAN LAND FOR SALE
    40 acres: 110 miles from Tucson: native trees, grasses: birder's heaven::dark sky/ borders state lease & National forest/5100 ft/13-16 per annum rain
  • CENTRAL PARK CULTURAL RESOURCE SPECIALIST
    Agency: Oregon Parks and Recreation Department Salary Range: $5,203 - $7,996 Position Title: Central Park Cultural Resource Specialist Do you have a background in Archaeology...
  • STAFF ATTORNEY
    Come live and work in one of the most beautiful places in the world! As our Staff Attorney you will play a key role in...
  • ARIZONA GRAZING CLEARINGHOUSE
    Dedicated to preventing the ecological degradation caused by livestock grazing on Arizona's public lands, and exposing the government subsidies that support it.
  • OPERATIONS MANAGER
    Position Summary: Friends of the Inyo (friendsoftheinyo.org) is seeking a new Operations Manager. The Operations Manager position is a full-time permanent position that reports directly...
  • WATER RIGHTS BUREAU CHIEF
    Water Rights Bureau Chief, State of Montana, DNRC, Water Resources Division, Helena, MT Working to support and implement the Department's mission to help ensure that...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Amargosa Conservancy (AC), a conservation nonprofit dedicated to standing up for water and biodiversity in the Death Valley region, seeks an executive director to...
  • DEVELOPMENT & OUTREACH ASSOCIATE
    Southeast Alaska Conservation Council is hiring! Who We Are: The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC) is a small grassroots nonprofit based out of Juneau, Alaska,...
  • DESERT LANDS ORGANIZER
    Position Summary: Friends of the Inyo seeks a Desert Lands Organizer to assist with existing campaigns that will defend lands in the California desert, with...
  • IDAHO CONSERVATION LEAGUE
    Want to help preserve Idaho's land, water, and air for future generations? Idaho Conservation League currently has 3 open positions. We are looking for a...
  • LUNATEC ODOR-FREE DISHCLOTHS
    are a must try. They stay odor-free, dry fast, are durable and don't require machine washing. Try today.
  • EVENTS AND ANNUAL FUND COORDINATOR
    The Events and Annual Fund Coordinator is responsible for managing and coordinating the Henry's Fork Foundation's fundraising events for growing the membership base, renewing and...
  • EDUCATION DIRECTOR
    Position Description: The Education Director is the primary leader of Colorado Canyons Association's (CCA) education programs for students and adults on the land and rivers...
  • 10 ACRES OF NEW MEXICO HIGH DESERT
    10 Acres of undeveloped high desert land in central NM, about 45 minutes from downtown Albuquerque. Mixed cedar and piñon pine cover. Some dirt roadways...
  • WATERSHED RESTORATION DIRECTOR
    $58k-$70k + benefits to oversee watershed restoration projects that fulfill our strategic goals across urban and rural areas within the bi-national Santa Cruz and San...