Eco-terrorism and the Trial of the Century

 

In case you hadn’t noticed, 12 young people (average age 33) have been charged with arson and conspiracy to commit arson in several Western states. The 83-page indictment was handed down by a federal grand jury in Oregon, and it must be important because the story made the front page of the Western edition of the New York Times on Jan. 21. Above the crease.

In commenting on their arrests (some are being held without bail), Attorney General Gonzales and FBI chief Mueller played the "domestic eco-terrorism" card before the media, often dropping the "eco" part.

Arson, terrorism or not, is, of course, a crime, a serious crime of which the dozen have only been accused. Fire scares people. It would scare me, if I were in one. But a bunch of unarmed treehuggers torching some trucks and buildings (including a ski-resort restaurant at Vail and a packing plant for wild mustangs) at night, after making certain that no two-leggeds or four-leggeds were anywhere close, is not, it seems to me, something I would compare to taking out the Oklahoma City Federal Building during working hours.

The 12, by the way (shades of the Dirty Dozen?) are now 11. Bill Rodgers of Prescott, Ariz., managed to take his life with a plastic bag while in custody. One of his several suicide notes, the one addressed to "my friends and supporters," reads:

"… Certain human cultures have been waging war against the Earth for millennia. I choose to fight on the side of bears, mountain lions, skunks, bats, saguaros, cliff rose and all things wild — I am just the most recent casualty in that war. But tonight I have made a jailbreak. I am returning home to the Earth, to the place of my origins."

Poignant, but an admission of guilt? Unless you’ve ever been in the federal-indictment wringer (I was, after protesting the logging of old-growth during the 1990s) don’t jump to any conclusions. Bill was a gentle man, an explorer of caves, a bookstore owner and decidedly nonviolent. Was he an arsonist in his spare time?

I’ve been attending enviro-gatherings for more than 20 years, and mostly I’ve been with urban, hike-oriented, letter-writing, good-hearted folks who initially are reserved about venturing their views but who, after a glass of wine, can get, well, radical. As one after another tells of personal loss of a favorite place on public lands we all own — forests, wetlands, streams and such — their eyes get misty; then they get angry, as they recall what has been taken. And not just in the West, but in New York and New Jersey, Michigan and Florida. Everybody wants to tell their story. After a while, as they get madder and madder, the person stuck with moderating the discussion has to close it off or close the bar.

Many of us are a hair-trigger away from walking Bill’s walk.

Let me quote a few lines from that federal indictment where it names the Evil Eleven, though Rodgers, the dead guy, continues to appear as an "unindicted co-conspirator." This is odd, since he’d been declared dead a month before the indictment was made public. As Dave Barry would say, I am not making this up.

But on to those quotes: "In discussing their actions among themselves, certain of the defendants and others used code words, code names and nicknames."

"Certain of the defendants and others dressed in dark clothing, wore masks and gloves, and otherwise disguised their appearance."

"Certain of the defendants and others acted as ‘lookouts" to ensure secrecy as the crimes were carried out."

Is anybody but me thinking Boston Tea Party?

And almost every count — and there are 65 of them — names the person or persons followed by the phrase "and other person(s) known to the Grand Jury." In other words, a plant, or plants.

Is this surprising? The FBI does it all the time. They do it in drug busts; they did it to EarthFirst in 1989, thanks to infiltration via love, or what seemed like love. We don’t have law enforcement; we set up stings.

What to do? You could opt to abandon the country immediately. Rwanda, I understand, now has room. Or, you could stand up for the Earnest Eleven at the five-week trial set to start in Eugene, Ore., on Oct. 31. This may not be the Trial of the Century but then again, it’s a young century. We could set the bar.

Robert Amon, who is usually called Uncle Ramon, is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News (hcn.org). A former insurance salesman turned treehugger, he lives on an old Forest Service bus here, there, and everywhere.

Note: the opinions expressed in this column are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of High Country News, its board or staff. If you'd like to share an opinion piece of your own, please write Betsy Marston at [email protected].

High Country News Classifieds
  • GILA NATIONAL FOREST
    9+ acre inholding. Passive solar strawbale off the grid and next to the Continental Divide Trail in ponderosa pine/doug fir forest at 7400.
  • HIRING BEARS EARS EDUCATION CENTER DIRECTOR
    Conservation nonprofit Friends of Cedar Mesa in Bluff, Utah is hiring an Education Center Director to oversee the operation of the Bears Ears Education Center....
  • PROGRAM MANAGER, SUSTAINING FLOWS
    Friends of the Verde River, Cottonwood, AZ. Apply at https://verderiver.org/employment-opportunities/
  • PROGRAM ASSOCIATE - VERDE RIVER EXCHANGE
    Verde River Exchange - Friends of the Verde River, Cottonwood, AZ. Apply at https://verderiver.org/employment-opportunities/
  • CODE COMPLIANCE OFFICER
    Teton County Planning & Building is hiring! Our ideal candidate is a team-player, a problem-solver, pays attention to detail, and can clearly communicate technical material...
  • ARCHITECTURE DRAFTSPERSON/PROJECT MANAGER
    Studio Architects is seeking a full time Architectural drafts-person/project manager with1-3 years of experience to join our firm. At Studio Architects our mission is to...
  • ASSISTANT MANAGER/TRAINEE, COLORADO RANCH
    needed for 16,000+ acre conservation property in south central Colorado. Qualified candidate would have experience working on a ranch or wilderness property, general forestry/fire management...
  • FARM HAND &/OR NANNY IN ESCALANTE
    Nanny for 18-mnth-old. Yearly salary, vacation, health insurance. Spanish/other foreign-language native spkr prefrrd.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Washington Association of Land Trusts seeks an ED to build on WALTs significant success & to lead the association to new levels of achievement. See...
  • BEAUTIFUL CUSTOM STRAWBALE HOME IN WESTERN COLORADO!
    Secluded, energy efficient Southwestern home on 40 wooded acres. Broker - Rand Porter - United Country Real Colorado Properties. 970-261-1248, $425K
  • FORMER RETREAT CENTER/CONSERVATION PROPERTY FOR SALE
    57 acres in Skull Valley, AZ, 17 miles from Prescott, year-round creek, swimming holes, secluded canyon, hiking/meditation trails, oaks, pines, garden, greenhouse. House, office building,...
  • ARIZONA PUBLIC LANDS ORGANIZER
    Title: Public Lands Organizer About the Arizona Wildlife Federation (AWF) The AWF is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating, inspiring, and assisting individuals and organizations...
  • HISTORIC RANCH HOME W/ 20 ACRES
    Historic 1893 Ranch Headquarters. 4 Bdrm, 3.5 Ba, 4000 ft2. Remodeled 2002. Includes 2 studio apts, stables, arena, workshop, 5 RV hookups. Chirachua & Peloncillo...
  • VICE PRESIDENT OF RETAIL OPERATIONS
    The Vice President of Retail Operations will provide overall leadership and accountability for purchasing, product development, merchandising planning, visual merchandising, retail operational excellence, oversight and...
  • ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR
    Grand Staircase Escalante Partners seeks an experienced fundraiser with excellent communication and organizational skills.
  • MS ACCESS DATABASE PROGRAMER
    Looking for an access programmer. Contract position. Send resume with references and rates to: [email protected] www.prospace.biz
  • PROGRAM MANAGER
    position in Phoenix with the Babbitt Center for Land and Water Policy.
  • ROADS END CABIN NEAR YELLOWSTONE
    Vaulted ceilings, two fireplaces, two bedrooms, loft, jetted tub, wifi. Forest, mountain views. Wildlife. [email protected]
  • ACCOUNTING CLERK
    Our director is seeking to employ the services of an Accounting Clerk to assist with various accounting and administrative tasks. This is a great opportunity...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, COMMUNITY RADIO PROJECT
    Community Radio Project, Cortez, CO (KSJD & the Sunflower Theatre). Visit ksjd.org and click on the Executive Director search link. CRP is an EOE.