Anyone who hoped authorities had stamped out environmental terrorism in the Northwest with the sentencing of 10 people in Eugene last year had those hopes go up in smoke with recent incidents.
Most notable was the torching of five luxury homes on a "street of dreams" northeast of Seattle on Monday. The Earth Liberation Front, well-known in the West for arson, claimed responsibility in spray-painting at the scene. Also Monday in the Seattle area, a jury was deliberating whether a 32-year-old violin teacher from Oakland, Calif., took part in a fire that destroyed a $7 million forest research center.
Then came news closer to home. Tre Arrow, who managed to fight extradition for four years while in Canada, returned to Oregon to face charges he torched concrete-mixing and logging trucks in 2001.
Obviously, America's fight against domestic ecoterrorists will be, like the one against foreign interests, a long one. This domestic war is as justified as the other, because its members threaten people and their possessions if they don't get their way through the democratic process.
Federal prosecutors did make a sizable dent in the radical movement in the West last year when 10 members of "The Family" cell based in Eugene were sentenced to prison. They were accused of 16 attacks that did more than $20 million in damage in the West from 1996 to 2001. Among the structures burned were the Glendale offices of what is now the Swanson Group and the Medford offices of U.S. Forest Industries. Both companies make lumber and other building materials.
At first, ecoterrorists confined their destruction to those directly involved with the forests. But eventually they spread their wave of fire to housing projects they disapproved of. It didn't matter that the developers had followed the rules to get them approved.
Ironically, the homes burned Monday were in a subdivision billed as "environmentally sensitive." Housing was limited to 25 percent of the acreage, construction stressed use of recycled materials and energy efficiency and landscaping was designed to reduce water use. That just gave ELF something to mock in the sign left behind: "Built Green? Nope black!"
Opponents of the development had questioned whether the luxury homes - priced at $1.8 million to $2 million each - would pollute a nearby creek and an aquifer and whether enough was done to protect nearby wetlands.
Certainly, any such impacts on the environment should be considered, and likely were. Unfortunately, the project didn't meet ELF standards, so members burned it. In doing so, they crossed from crusader to criminal and need to be arrested and prosecuted.