SUVs... join eco-vandals' hit list
>S.U.V.'s, Golf, Even Peas Join Eco-Vandals' Hit List
>By SAM HOWE VERHOVEK
>SEATTLE, June 30 - The fire at Joe Romania Chevrolet in Eugene,
>Ore., started just before 2:45 one morning in the spring. Nearly 30
>Chevrolet Suburbans and Tahoes were destroyed in the blaze, the
>second time in nine months that vehicles in the dealership's
>sport-utility lot had been set afire.
> The fire at Ray A. Schoppert Logging Inc., in Eagle Creek, Ore.,
>also occurred between 2 and 3 a.m. This one, on June 1, near the
>site of a disputed timber sale in a federal forest, burned three
> Sometime in the night of June 10, someone broke into a research
>farm owned by Seminis Inc., near Twin Falls, Idaho, and ripped out
>hundreds of genetically altered pea plants.
> These incidents share more than the fact that none has resulted in
>an arrest. All three appear to be part of what federal authorities
>describe as a growing pattern of eco-sabotage, or vandalism, that
>its anonymous perpetrators claim to have carried out in defense of
> Many of these attacks, which the authorities say are especially
>prevalent here in the Pacific Northwest, are relatively small-scale
>and fail to attract much attention. Many go unreported, for the
>companies involved are often reluctant to generate publicity that
>might make them a target all over again.
> But even if less noticed than major acts of eco-sabotage like the
>recent fire at a University of Washington genetics research
>laboratory, the vandalism has quietly reshaped life for many small
>businesses, forcing a need for safety measures that would have once
> "We've had to beef up security so it looks like a prison around
>our greenhouses," said Crystal Fricker, president of Pure-Seed
>Testing Company in Canby, Ore., which grows all kinds of grass
>seed. The company installed a chain-link fence with razor wire,
>motion sensors and an alarm system after vandals broke into
>greenhouses on its 110-acre property last June.
> The intruders destroyed several research projects, stomped on the
>grass, spray-painted slogans like "Nature bites back" and left
>behind golf balls marked with the letter A, the international
>anarchists' symbol. Pure-Seed was apparently singled out because of
>its experiments with a genetically modified form of grass that
>could be used for putting greens on golf courses.
> A few days after the incident, an e- mail message from a sender
>identifying itself as the Anarchist Golfing Association claimed
>responsibility for the vandalism, which caused roughly $500,000 in
> "Grass, like industrial culture, is invasive and permeates every
>aspect of our lives," the message said. "While the golf trade
>journals claim that `golf courses provide suitable habitat for
>wildlife,' we see them as a destroyer of all things wild."
> In a sign of the growing fears, even companies that say they do no
>genetic-engineering research whatsoever are taking precautions.
> At its plant in Tangent, Ore., Barenbrug U.S.A., a company that
>sells alfalfa and other turf and forage grasses, took down all
>signs that had the word "research" in them, even though the company
>conducts only traditional cross-breeding.
> "It kind of bothers you when you feel you've got to keep out of
>the public eye," said Bob Richardson, supply manager at Barenbrug
>and president of the Oregon Seed Trade Association, an industry
> "But there are people out there who don't understand what's going
>on here," Mr. Richardson said. "They think we're working on some
>alfalfa plant that's going to expand and explode and eat downtown
> The attacks are causing consternation not only for businesses,
>university researchers and law enforcement authorities but also for
>mainstream environmental groups, who fear that the vandalism is
>undermining legitimate grievances.
> "I loathe S.U.V.'s; I have deep concerns about genetic
>engineering," said Chip Giller, editor of www.gristmagazine.com,
>the online journal of the Earth Day Network, based in Seattle. "I
>understand the anger."
> "But these attacks aren't constructive," Mr. Giller said. "They're
>not winning any converts to the cause. They're not
>environmentalism. They're vandalism."
> State and federal authorities say that in addition to the recent
>fires at the University of Washington and on an Oregon poplar farm,
>they are investigating at least a dozen other incidents of
>suspected eco-sabotage in the Northwest in recent months.
> Many of the acts are thought to be tied in some fashion to the
>Earth Liberation Front, a loosely organized network of protesters.
> After the fire at the car dealership in Eugene, Craig Rosebraugh,
>who calls himself a spokesman for the North American Earth
>Liberation Front press office, said he had received an "anonymous
>communiqué" from someone who claimed responsibility for the fire.
> "Gas-guzzling S.U.V.'s are at the forefront of this vile,
>imperialistic culture's caravan towards self-destruction," said the
>statement, which Mr. Rosebraugh said had been delivered to him
>electronically. "We can no longer allow the rich to parade around
>in their armored existence, leaving a wasteland behind in their
> Steve Romania, the owner of the dealership in Eugene named for his
>father, Joe, said he was bewildered both by the two attacks on his
>business and the steps he has had to take as a result.
> "I've put up a fence around the lot and had to hire extra
>security," Mr. Romania said. "This is a car dealership. We're not
>General Motors. We're just a small, family-owned business that's
>been in this location for 40 years. I still can't understand why
>we're a target."
> While small-business owners are ratcheting up security, the
>Federal Bureau of Investigation is not only offering tips on
>deterring potential vandalism but is doing so to an ever- growing
>pool of companies.
> "It used to be just mink farmers and logging companies, but now
>the target industries are expanding," explained Beth Anne Steele, a
>spokeswoman for the F.B.I. in Portland. "Now it's tree farms,
>research facilities, housing developments, anything to do with
> "We tell them all they should be very aware of any unusual
>movements, anybody spending odd amounts of time in the area,
>anybody hanging around with cameras," Ms. Steele said. "We tell
>them to pay attention to security."
> The Earth Liberation Front recently posted a primer on "the
>politics and practicalities of arson" on its Web site, offering
>tips on starting fires with timers and telling adherents that "the
>objective of every action should be assured destruction."
> But despite searches of the home of Mr. Rosebraugh in Portland,
>and bringing him before a federal grand jury, the authorities have
>made little progress in solving the crimes. Mr. Rosebraugh says he
>is not involved in any of the incidents.
> "These folks work in the middle of the night," said Steven Berry,
>a supervisory special agent for the F.B.I. in Washington, D.C.
>"They know how to evade security, and they know how to cover their
>tracks. They make sure that at the scene of a crime, little if any
>evidence is left behind."
> In Idaho, vandals entered the test plots of Seminis Inc. and
>ripped out the pea plants. Genetix Alert, which describes itself as
>an independent news service, published a statement from those who
>claimed to have destroyed the plants.
> "These peas weren't normal," the statement said. "They had their
>genes changed to make the plants stay alive when sprayed with
>glyphosate herbicide. These gene-altered plants can cross-breed
>with regular plants, and we don't know what they will do to people,
>animals, the soil, or anything."
> Seminis, one of the largest seed companies in the world, said the
>vandals had destroyed important research. "Sadly, this time, the
>greatest damage was to a conventionally bred variety with root rot
>resistance," a company spokesman said.
> In one of the rare instances in which a suspected eco-saboteur has
>been caught, the police in Eugene arrested two men in connection to
>the first attack on the car dealership. Eugene police officers said
>that the arsonists had set up jugs of camp fuel and gasoline in an
>unsuccessful effort to ignite a fuel truck belonging to a local oil
> Jeffrey Michael Luers and Craig Andrew Marshall were charged with
>the crimes. Mr. Marshall, 28, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to
>commit arson at the car dealership and is serving five years and
>six months in prison. Mr. Luers was recently sentenced to more than
>22 years in prison despite pleas from his lawyer that the
>punishment was excessive. Mr. Luers, his lawyer argued, had taken
>steps to reduce any danger to people; prosecutors said the fuel
>truck, had it exploded, could have caused widespread damage.
> Mr. Luers, 22, told the judge he had acted out of frustration
>"because of the irreversible damage being done to the planet - our
>home." Mr. Luers, known as Free to some colleagues in Eugene's
>network of anarchists, and Mr. Marshall, known as Critter, were
>mentioned in the liberation front's communiqué.
> "Romania Chevrolet is the same location that was targeted last
>June, for which two earth warriors, Free and Critter, are being
>persecuted," the message said. "The fire that burns within Free and
>Critter burns within all of us and cannot be extinguished by
>locking them up."
> Despite the arrests of Mr. Luers and Mr. Marshall, most cases,
>including all the recent ones here in the Northwest, remain
>unsolved, even with tantalizing clues.
> At Pure-Seed, the grass company attacked a year ago, the e-mail
>message from the presumed perpetrators was found to have come from
>a library in Eugene, a college town that is a magnet for
>self-described anarchists, but the sender had established a
>temporary account under an assumed name and was not found.
> None of the saboteurs ever took Pure-Seed up on an offer to drop
>all charges if saboteurs would come forward so company officials
>could explain their research.
> Law enforcement officials are becoming increasingly concerned.
>While there have been no deaths or injuries so far, they say, that
>could change at any time.
> "Sooner or later, one of these events is going to happen where
>somebody gets hurt," said Ms. Steele, the F.B.I. spokeswoman,
>"whether it's someone working late in a building somewhere or a
>firefighter responding to the scene."