By Ray Stern
By New Times
By Amy Silverman
By Stephen Lemons
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After college, Foreman went to work as a part-time teacher on the Zuni Indian Reservation and at the trading post.
He left to go to horseshoeing school at New Mexico State in Las Cruces.
"I worked at horseshoeing for a couple of years in northern New Mexico. Then I realized there really aren't very many old horseshoers around. At least, they're not intact. It's a real dangerous job and one day I nearly lost an eye."
So he became a guide and started a mule-packing business, and it was about this time--in 1971--that he became interested in conservation issues.
By 1973 he began working for the Wilderness Society as its Southwestern representative at a salary of $250 a month.
Five years later, he moved to Washington, D.C., to be the group's lobbyist.
"I went back to Washington expecting to be impressed by everyone," Foreman recalled. "I found very few congressmen who seemed like giants. At the same time, I saw that conservation groups were becoming more and more bureaucratic.
"They were interested in maintaining close contact with powerful members of Congress. They didn't want to rock the boat. They forgot their job was to be constant advocates for ecological sanity.
"They started hiring accountants, people who were basically businessmen. The conservation movement was losing its soul."
In Washington, Foreman was making the largest salary he has ever made--$18,000 a year. He left and came to Arizona.
Foreman and four friends who were interested in ecology went on a camping trip to Mexico. One day, sitting in a bar in Sonora, San Luis, they founded Earth First!
"We wanted to get back to the fundamentals of John Muir," Foreman said. "We wanted to reinject enthusiasm into a movement that had died and turned boring.
"We really believe that man has no right to destroy the planet. This movement isn't designed to merely preserve scenery or backpacking trails. We weren't interested in creating outdoor gymnasiums for suburban yuppies. We were talking about saving life."
They contacted Edward Abbey, the writer, and he gave them both encouragement and some money.
The first thing Foreman did was to hook up with Bart Koehler, the country-Western singer who calls himself Johnny Sagebrush. With $20 in their pockets, they took off in Foreman's ancient Volkswagen bus on a 10,000-mile drive around the United States to raise both donations and interest.
"We were on the road three months," Foreman said. "We went to Washington state, New York, Florida, and California. I'd give a speech, Johnny Sagebrush would sing some songs and then we'd pass the hat.
"Generally, we got enough to buy a six-pack and gas to get us to the next town. We slept on people's floors, and we'd have leftover pizza for dinner. I don't think I could ever do it again but it was worth it. We created a lot of interest."
The first big action taken by Earth First! was the hoax that made people think there was a huge crack in Glen Canyon Dam.
"It was the spring of 1981," Foreman said. "We didn't know if we could make it work. We bought 300 feet of black plastic tape from Babbitt's department store in Flagstaff. We got some rope, some duct tape and some pipe and rolled it all up. Then we got on top of the dam and just pushed it off, and it rolled all the way down.
"God, it looked like there was a crack all the way down the dam."
Foreman smiled now as he remembered that day.
"We waited around to get arrested," he said, "but nobody showed up. So we went over to the parking lot where Ed Abbey gave a speech. Johnny Sagebrush sang. Finally, the county sheriff's car came up.
"The deputy told us he wasn't even against us. Turned out he was a great admirer of Abbey's and wanted very much to meet him. So we couldn't even get arrested."
Foreman marveled at what happened next.
"Do you know it took me seven tries before I could even get arrested?"
It wasn't until the spring of 1983 that this occurred. But it almost cost Foreman his life.
"We were up around Medford, Oregon, on a forest issue," Foreman recalled. "The forest service was trying to punch a road into an area where there were no roads at all.
"We did things like stand in front of bulldozers in an attempt to stop workers from going in there to work.
"One morning there was just me and a fellow in a wheelchair. We blocked the road with a log. At five in the morning, a sheriff's deputy came and pulled the log off the road with a winch.
"Then, at six, some workers arrived in a big double-cab pickup truck. I stood in front of the truck. The driver advanced slowly and bumped me. Then, he started forcing me back. I wouldn't get out of the way, so he started pushing the truck up against me. Then, when he made contact, he accelerated.
"I was being pushed back. Then, when he started going faster and faster, I lost my balance. I grabbed onto the bumper as I fell over backward. I held on as the truck kept moving with me hanging on the bumper and being dragged along.