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SUVs... join eco-vandals' hit list

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  • Rod and Lennie Kat
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 3, 2001
      >S.U.V.'s, Golf, Even Peas Join Eco-Vandals' Hit List
      >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
      >logging trucks.
      > 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
      >the environment.
      > 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
      >been unthinkable.
      > "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
      >tire tracks."
      > 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."
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