By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
The arrest of the militant environmentalists of Earth First! on May 30, 1989, included charges of terrorism directed at nuclear power plants in the West. The foundation for the alarming headlines that announced the bust is contained in government files. Those files detail an undercover FBI probe that began in 1988 as radical ecologists took to the road for their version of a convention.
Nancy Morton flew north to Spokane, Washington, from Tucson, Arizona, en route to the annual gathering of the woolly warriors of Earth First! Married to Dave Foreman, co-founder of America's most outrageous environmental group, Morton hoped to cut back on her own involvement in Earth First! so that she might finish her doctorate in nursing. As the airplane sluiced through the summer skies, Morton warned her traveling companion to be cautious of whom she talked to at the impending Round River Rendezvous; there would be undercover cops in attendance.
It was good advice.
The friend making the trip with Morton, Katherine Clark, was an FBI informant.
"Undercover agents would be attempting to persuade Earth First! members to participate in illegal, criminal activities and then arrest them," Morton was quoted as saying in an FBI report filed by the informant.
One of the most provocative eco-terrorists at the rendezvous was a man named Ron Frazier whose specialty was the crippling of diesel equipment.
Another FBI report submitted after the Earth First! rally by the government's informant stated: "Source attended a discussion led by Ron Frazier held during the Round River Rendezvous on July 1, 1988. Source advised that Frazier appeared to be very dangerous." This was not precisely the intelligence the FBI was seeking from its operatives at the Rendezvous; Frazier, after all, had been on the FBI payroll for months.
This sort of awkward overlap must be expected when snitches are stumbling over each other. Still, not everyone at the Earth First! conclave was an FBI informant; some were actually FBI agents.
Special Agent Michael Fain, FBI, posing as radical environmentalist Michael Tait, attended the party and took firsthand notes of the speech given by Dave Foreman. Fain's undercover work would eventually lead to indictments.
In a three-page, single-spaced report on Foreman's speech, FBI agent Fain is hardly able to hold the reader's interest, let alone make the case that the agent was listening to an apocalyptic saboteur. Although Fain recounts Foreman's claim that monkey-wrenching was now an accepted tactic of Earth First!, the FBI report also notes that Foreman pointedly ignored a member of the audience who asked about dynamite.
Foreman went into the government files as a leader who advocates that we should all live as mankind did in earlier times. Not the earlier times of, say, the turn of the century when bicycles were more common than automobiles. Foreman desired an epoch a tad more primitive than that offered by Victorian nostalgia.
"Earth First! should be based on the tribal concept of earlier civilizations. Earth First! should be guided by consensus and the concept that Mother Earth comes first. There will be no law in the Earth First! movement, just tradition and custom. According to Foreman, Earth First! people and the Earth need to be redirected to what the Earth and civilization were 10,000 years ago when people were hunter-gatherers," wrote FBI agent Fain in his report on Foreman's Round River Rendezvous speech.
The suggestion that we should revert to the ways of 8000 B.C. is a common theme in Foreman's speeches and even appears in his most recent book Confessions of an Eco-Warrior.
At least one knowledgeable source claims that ecologists who lived 10,000 years ago did not dwell in an entirely bucolic period.
"In the Southwest, we can't really talk about a culture at that time. As far as life expectancy, it wasn't much but we really have no idea. We have no skeletons. All we have are some spear points, some stone butchering tools, remains of camp fires and the evidence of dead elephants," says Dr. Raymond Thompson, an archaeologist and the director of the Arizona State Museum at the University of Arizona.
"In Asia and Europe, there is evidence that people at that time, the late, upper Paleolithic period, or Stone Age, had some shelter. If you lived to be forty, you were considered to be an elder; the dangers of hunting elephants with spears produced some risks. Painting on cave walls was going on, though not at its highest level. You had very serious problems with osteoporosis and various pathologies. Because we've found needles we know that they had tailored clothing; perhaps not tailored in the sense of a jacket you and I might wear but something more than a hole in the skin that you poked your head through."
Would Dr. Thompson himself like to time-travel back to the late, upper Paleolithic Stone Age period of 8000 B.C.? "Absolutely not!" he replied without prompting.
We must assume that Foreman's audience at Round River was made of sterner stuff than the good doctor who clearly appreciates the comforts of his campus.
Indeed, there is some clue to the sort of gumption Special Agent Fain discovered at Round River in the very nickname of the subject who generated the longest FBI file following the rally.