"2000: Acts of Ecoterrorism by Radical Environmental Organizations."
Testimony before Congress
By: Testimony before the Subcommittee on Crime, Committee on the Judiciary, U.S. House of Representatives.
Date: June 9, 1998
Source: Testimony included in "2000: Acts of Ecoterrorism by Radical Environmental Organizations," a report of the hearing before the Subcommittee on Crime of the Committee on the Judiciary, House of Representatives, 105th Congress, Second Session, Serial No. 142.
About the Author: The Committee on the Judiciary, often called "the lawyer for the House of Representatives," has jurisdiction over matters relating to the administration of justice in federal courts, administrative bodies, and law enforcement agencies. It was formed in 1813. The Subcommittee on Crime, now called the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, was chaired at the time by Illinois representative Henry Hyde. Bruce Vincent, a citizen of Montana, presented testimony to the Subcommittee on Crime, relaying his personal experience with ecoterrorism.
Since the 1970s, a number of radical environmental groups and numerous individuals acting on their behalf have resorted to violence in the name of protecting animals and the environment. These organizations, including the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), Stop Huntington Animal Cruelty (SHAC), and Green Anarchy, have used arson, bombings, harassment, and vandalism to promote their agenda. They gain support and membership through numerous Web sites and publications such as No Compromise, Green Anarchy, and Bite Back Magazine.
The targets of ecoterrorism have included car dealerships, fast-food restaurants, logging companies, construction companies, fur farms, housing developments, and corporate- and university- based research facilities that employ animal testing. Estimates are that ecoterrorists have caused more than $100 million in property damage, and from 1996 to 2002, authorities investigated at least 600 criminal acts of ecoterrorism.
In the following prepared statement before the Subcommittee on Crime of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary in 1998, Montanan Bruce Vincent details the terror he and his family were subjected to at the hands of ecoterrorists.
Dear Committee Members,
Thank you for the opportunity to comment to you on the issue of eco-terrorism. My name is Bruce Vincent. I am from Libby, Montana, a small timber and mining town. I am currently the President of Alliance for America, an umbrella group for several hundred farming, ranching, mining, logging, fishing and private property grassroots groups throughout America. My day job is business manager for our small family company that is involved in the practical application of academic forest management theory, Vincent Logging . . .
I am from an area that does not expect easy solutions to our forest management problemsnd is ready, willing, and able to work hard on the difficult choices we feel can and must be made if we are to achieve our vision. I am here today to share with you one of the tragic consequences of this involvement that is as painful as anything I have had to deal with in my life.
I have been, my family has been, subjected to ecoterrorism.
When I first started speaking out about my personal belief that the existing environmental legislative and regulatory regime was in need of reform I was completely unaware of the dark side of the debate I naively thought of as based upon simple disagreement of fact. At first, the consequences were fairly innocuous. I began receiving letters and phone calls from unknown individuals that were extremely upset with my views.
The calls, at first, were nothing more than irrational ramblings of persons who would not give their names but with whom my views disagreed. A few unsigned letters with vicious statements of disapproval were sent that echoed the sentiments of the phone callers. No threats were madeust 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 companies [sic] 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. Since the hydraulics on this particular 100,000 pound machine are directly connected to the engine and since the hydraulics make the brakes of this machine work, had the failure occurred on the steep ground my Father would have been the jockey of an out of control, 50 ton, deadly, projectile. Further, the brake lines on one of our dump trucks were cut and the hydraulic lines on one of our excavators were cut. Since laborers worked under the excavator boom and the boom was controlled by its hydraulic system, we were fortunate to discover the imminent failure of the boom before anyone was physically injured. During this same time period, other local logging contractors had equipment sabotaged but, unfortunately, no one was ever caught.
While the approach to the equipment sabotage was exactly as outlined in Dave Foreman's Earth First! book Ecodefense: A Field Guide to Monkey Wrenching, the terrorists did not leave a calling card and slipped away. Although no one ever stepped forward to take credit for the actions against our company and other companies attacked that summer, it is worth noting that the newsletter Wild Rockies Review issued a call to actions in the inland northwest two summers later. The advertisement for ecoterrorists included a drawing of a burning dozer situated on a map of northwestern Montana with the caption of "Burn That Dozer." Posted on campuses throughout the area, the advertisement's plea went to students looking for summer work and promised room and board for those wanting to spend the summer terrorizing resource workers and managers.
Shortly after our equipment was sabotaged, the phone calls and the viciousness of those calls escalated. I phoned the authorities and asked for help. I was told that unless I could prove that I had been harmed, there was nothing that could be done.
During this same period, a group of extremists in Missoula, Montana, developed a short skit in which I was portrayed as a hunter of animals along with then U.S. Representative Ron Marlenee. At the end of the skit, as performed and videotaped on the steps of the federal building in Missoula, I was shot and killed to protect the animals. The fear that this caused within myself and my family was understandable.
In the fall of 1989 the CBS news magazine, "60 Minutes," called and asked if I would be available for an interview on eco-terrorism. I participated in the show and it aired in the spring of 1990. Shortly after the "60 Minutes" show aired, the producer of the news magazine called to tell me that the CBS studio had received an inordinate number of phone calls from persons who were asking for the address of Earth First!. The producer was concerned that by airing the show CBS may have inadvertently focused unwanted attention on me and my family since the callers seemed to be happy to learn that there was an avenue for expressing the hatred that they felt. The producer's warning proved prophetic.
Soon, the threatening phone calls turned from focusing on harm to be done to myself to harm to be done to my children. 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." Finally, my local sheriff installed phone traps on my phone lineut because of the antiquated system of phones in our area, the tapping was not effective if the call originated outside the lata, or area, of our local phone company. No one was ever trapped or caught.
With the aid of Senator Conrad Burns' office, the FBI and state authorities were called in to the situation and again informed me that until something happened there was little that they could do. It was suggested that I carry a concealed weapon and that I teach my wife and children how to handle and fire a gun. What type of investigation was attempted of those who could be a threat to me and my family was never made clear. I was alerted on occasions where it was thought that I should "be careful" when giving speeches. For a "Cowboy/Logger Day Celebration" in Missoula, Montana, Rep. Marlenee and I were both told that there was reason to be concerned for our safety. Authorities in Sweet Home, Oregon, fitted me with a bulletproof vest for a speech in Oregon and my family was given protection on a tightly secured visit to the area.
Lincoln County, Montana, and other local authorities and the schools worked out a system of removal of my children from schools or home to safe houses when a threat was made. Our home, located in a sparsely populated area twelve miles south of our small town, was given additional security by the local state patrolmen. We purchased a large dog. We put security systems on our home. We went for periods of time where our children were not allowed to answer the phone for fear of them getting a direct link to the lunacy.
The impact of these acts upon my family have been marked. When the threats started my four children were aged three through twelve. We held numerous family meetings to determine whether or not we should continue our involvement in the debate over our future. We sought and got family and pediatric therapy to deal with the stress. The decision of my family has been consistentaced with either shutting up as requested or speaking out so loudly that we make a highly visible and therefore, hopefully, poor targete chose to speak out . . .
My family speaks openly and candidly with each other about our situation. We were assured by the authorities with experience that most terrorist threats were just thathreatsnd that the odds of anyone actually carrying out one of the threats were minute.
Thankfully, the calls and threats have subsided. I wish I could say the same about the feelings of terror in my family. I believe, I desperately want to believe, that the authorities are right and that the hate-mongers feel satisfied by making simple and idle threats. But, what if some self-anointed Rambo of the ecoterror mind-set acts upon a threat and attacks more than just my logging equipment. It is in this one small worduthat the power of terrorism is real and palpable in my life. "But" and "what if" are horrifying thoughts to have when you are hundreds or thousands of miles away from home.
As the father of four children I will go to my grave wondering if I have made the right decisions. Should I have let the terrorists win and gone quietly about the business of letting them run roughshod over my civil liberties? That seems unthinkable. . . but I question the wisdom of standing behind my six-year-old daughter, weeping quietly as I took the advice of the authorities and taught her and her siblings how to shoot. I wonder if I have made the right decision in speaking at this hearing. I am supposed to protect my children and exercising my first amendment right, speaking out on the environmentas exposed them to terrorists.
In a free country, those who perpetrate the acts that generate terror should be punishable by law. Please help make that possible . . .
Ecoterrorism in the United States had its origins in England, where an organization called Hunt Saboteurs employed sabotage to interrupt fox hunting in the 1960s. In 1972, the organization evolved into the Band of Mercy, which took more militant action to protect animals. That organization, in turn, became the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) in 1976. ALF activities in the United States began in about 1979. ALF's most notorious action occurred in 1987, when it set fire to a University of California at Davis veterinary school laboratory, causing $3.5 million in damage.
After the 1992 bombing of a Michigan State University animal research laboratory, one of the leaders of ALF, Rod Coronado, was convicted for the crime and sent to prison. This was unusual, however, because the ALF, like most ecoterrorist groups, is not a formal organization that one can join; rather, it is a concept, and individuals gain "membership" in ALF simply by carrying out acts of ecoterrorism in the organization's name. Guiding them are Internet publications, including the ALF Primer and Arson Around with Auntie ALF, which provides readers with instructions for carrying out a "direct action."
While ALF tends to focus more on animal rights, the Earth Liberation Front, founded in 1992 by David Foreman, tends to focus more on the environment,opposing strip mining, mountain top removal mining, logging, and commercial development of public lands. In his testimony before the House of Representatives, Bruce Vincent alluded to Foreman's 1985 book Ecodefense: A Field Guide to Monkeywrenching. This is a how-to book for environmental sabotage and includes detailed instructions for such actions as tree spiking (driving metal spikes that will damage logging equipment into trees) and damaging equipment. The group makes available an Internet publication, Setting Fires with Electrical Timers: An Earth Liberation Front Guide.
In 1997, ELF made headlines when it burned down a ski resort near Vail, Coloradot the time the costliest act of ecoterrorism in U.S. history, with damages totaling $12 million. On August 1, 2003, the group eclipsed that record when it burned down a housing development under construction in San Diego, California, causing $50 million in damages. Near the scene of the crime was an ELF banner that read, "If you build it, we will burn it." Three weeks later the group caused $2 million in damages when it firebombed a car dealership in West Covina, California, destroying or damaging Hummers and SUVs.
These organizations have historically caused property damage. However, in 1999, eighty Harvard researchers received letters booby-trapped with razor blades and containing this message: "You have until autumn 2000 to release all your primate captives and get out of the vivisection industry. If you do not heed our warning, your violence will be turned back upon you." Jerry Vlasak, a leader of the Animal Defense League, is reported to have said: "I don't think you'd have to kill too many [people]. I think for five lives, 10 lives, 15 human lives, we could save a million, 2 million, 10 million non-human lives." These and similar statements indicate what authorities see as a possible growing militancy among extremist envronmental groups.
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McFall, Kathleen. Ecoterrorism: The Next American Revolution? High Sierra Books, 2005.
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