THE EARTH'S STORM TROOPERS

Ending his weeks of testimony with the sort of outburst you might expect from a witness who had Tourette's syndrome, paid FBI informant Ron Frazier told the jury that he had been on the verge of gunning down the members of Earth First!.

Under cross-examination by defense attorney Gerry Spence, Frazier said if he hadn't decided to work for the FBI, he'd have pulled a Rambo-type deal.

Pressed to explain, Frazier claimed he would have killed people in Earth First! if he hadn't gone undercover for the Bureau.

Imagine that.
After being jilted by defendant Ilse Asplund, Ron Frazier was under the impression that he ought to execute environmentalists. And today, over three and a half years after he walked into the FBI offices, Frazier is so out of touch with the doings on planet Earth that he volunteers his homicidal urges in a court of law, despite being paid more than $50,000 by Uncle Sam to be a well-behaved star witness.

At the conclusion of his testimony, Frazier departed the federal courthouse on a bicycle and was promptly run over by an automobile and required hospitalization. Attempts to reach the government's eerie witness were unsuccessful, though it was obvious from the answers of hospital administrators that Frazier, whose condition was listed as stable, is back under FBI security.

Nothing coming from the mouth of Ron Frazier is any longer surprising, even the idea that he contemplated murdering members of Earth First!.

It is, however, another story entirely to hear the same sentiments expressed by a former member of President Reagan's cabinet.

In a speech last March, James Watt, onetime secretary of the Interior, encouraged members of the Green River Cattlemen's Association in Pinedale, Wyoming, to pick up a gun when dealing with Earth First!-type environmentalists.

Sounding as if he were running for the next vacancy on Judge Roy Bean's court, Watt said, "If the trouble from environmentalists cannot be solved in the jury box or at the ballot box, perhaps the cartridge box should be used."

Watt informed his audience that there was an "environmental conspiracy" to end the multiple use (mineral development, ranching, timber harvesting, oil and gas drilling) of public lands.

Supporters of Earth First! in Prescott latched onto Watt's sound bite like Catholics with a head wound grabbing for communion wafers. Because even the most militant environmentalists have always preached nonviolence toward all living creatures, even the operators of Honda ATVs, earnest sympathizers with Earth First! were scandalized that Watt would mention tree huggers in the same breath with Winchesters.

On the other hand, ardent environmentalists with their lawsuits and their sabotage have threatened the livelihood of loggers, ranchers, miners and other hardy outdoor folks who do not watch Pee-wee's Playhouse on Saturday morning. If they catch you pouring grit in the fuel tank of their expensive-as-hell bulldozer, you bet they are going to whip your butt. Every time.

It is against the comments of Watt that the trial in Prescott must be understood. The vandalism the defendants are accused of committing were not isolated acts. They are part of a new range war being waged throughout the West that is every bit as deadly as the one that launched Billy the Kid.

The stakes are life, death and the American Way.
In Oakland, California, Earth First! activists Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney were blown up on May 24, 1990, in their car when a pipe bomb exploded on the floorboard beneath the driver's seat. The crime remains unsolved. Bari and Cherney were the two best-known organizers of the highly visible--and highly volatile--Redwood Summer campaign, an effort to end logging of old-growth forests in northern California.

During a lengthy interview last week, Perry Pendley, president of the Mountain States Legal Foundation, compared Earth First! co-founder Dave Foreman to Tom Metzger, the white supremacist whose racist publications have inspired and inflamed young skinheads across the country. Like Metzger, Foreman is a pied piper, said Pendley, and both appeal to an element that has no place in America.

The round table of business and industrial heavyweights at Mountain States was concerned enough about Earth First! property destruction that a hot line to report property damage was set up under Pendley's guidance. Targets can call 1-303-TESTIFY, an acronym for "Tell of Environmental Sabotage and Terrorism Interfering With Freedom--Yours."

Ed Wright, a spokesman for the Blue Ribbon Commission, an umbrella group representing the interests of 500,000 off-road vehicle enthusiasts, claims that Earth First! members operate as strong-arm goons for more mainstream environmental groups.

"The way I see it, Earth First! has kind of been the enforcers. Court cases get filed by more legitimate organizations, the case is lost, the [development] project moves ahead and suddenly Earth First! shows up."

Is Wright suggesting that mainstream organizations actively employ Earth First! as storm troopers?

"Absolutely," replied Wright.
"If you have problems you call out the dogs," said Wright. "The Sierra Club is button-downed and proper. Publicly, they say they want nothing to do with these bozos. But there is more than meets the eye behind the scenes."

According to Mountain States' Pendley, there is enough going on that he felt the need to take action in July 1989.

As Pendley made speeches in the West, "timbermen, miners, ranchers would come up to me and say they'd had sabotage and that no one was treating it as sabotage on a national basis, that they were looking at it as if they were disparate acts of vandalism. So we established the clearinghouse for people to contact us and serve that function."

An attorney born and raised in Cheyenne, Wyoming, Pendley once worked as a deputy assistant secretary for the Department of the Interior. In his current job, he said he's observed a wide variety of destruction by environmentalists.

"In Bellingham, Washington, they did several hundred thousand dollars' worth of damage to heavy equipment. In Garfield County, Utah, they shot 21 cows at close range that were grazing on public lands and in the same incident burned three line cabins to the ground used by the rancher.

"My view, frankly, is that these people are most terrifying to people in the West who recreate on public lands or depend upon the businesses on public lands. Four out of ten jobs in Oregon are related to the timber industry. Emotions are so high. Some of these towns have 26 percent unemployment. There was a McDonald's in Oregon that advertised for help and 230 people applied for the position."

The environmentalists, according to Pendley, who've succeeded in shutting down logging in old-growth forests to protect spotted owls and ancient trees, are responsible for this economic depression.

"Any use of public land except for their rendezvous is wrong," said Pendley.

Though he did not have an exact count, Pendley said that approximately 50 incidents of sabotage have been telephoned into the Mountain States hot line.

Pendley--and others concur--claims his reports only reflect a fraction of the eco-tage being committed.

In his seminal 1990 book, Green Rage, radical environmentalist Christopher Manes estimated that large timber operations like Weyerhaeuser and Louisiana-Pacific alone have sustained nearly $10 million of sabotage to heavy equipment.

"In 1987, the Forest Service commissioned Bill Hull, a special agent in Region 6 (Oregon and Washington) to carry out a nationwide survey of Forest Service personnel to get some idea of the amount of eco-tage being carried out," wrote Manes. "The results were kept confidential, despite several attempts by radical environmentalists to obtain the information under the Freedom of Information Act. Hull freely admits that he would prefer that the statistics never be released, because he would not want ecoteurs to know `just how much havoc they're causing.'"

The typical incident of sabotage in Oregon averaged $60,000 in damage and ranged upward to $100,000, claimed Jim McCauley in an interview with Manes. A forest policy analyst for the Association of Oregon Loggers, McCauley said there were dozens of such acts in 1989 alone.

Manes concluded that the cost in destruction by militant environmentalists was $20 to $25 million per year.

With these kinds of numbers, you can understand why the FBI thinks the Prescott case against the defendants is so critical.

You no longer have to ask yourself why the government is so intent upon making an example out of the co-founder of Earth First!, Dave Foreman.

You do, however, have to consider something else.
When you discuss the Weather Underground, the Symbionese Liberation Army, the American Indian Movement or any other organization the FBI identifies as politically violent, you know that you are dealing with isolated phenomena. No one watching the SLA on television was inspired to take up arms with Tanya.

But if official estimates are correct, then hundreds, if not thousands, of people have been captured by the vision of Earth First!.

More than a century ago, federal troops hanged John Brown because of his destructive obsession with slavery. The example of his corpse, however, did not dampen the disgust of Brown's countrymen with the condition of blacks in the South. The underground railroad ignored the laws holding that blacks were private property, much as Earth First! ignores the laws holding that bulldozers are likewise private property.

Even when you view Earth First!'s activities through the eyes of its detractors, even when you recognize that there are perfectly obvious reasons why the prosecution of this case has proceeded as if on a mission, questions linger: Why are there so many people out in the wilderness carrying on like banshees? Will the destruction stop if there are convictions?

To be continued

The stakes are life, death and the American Way.

Wright claims that Earth First! members operate as strong-arm goons for more mainstream environmental groups.

With these kinds of numbers, you can understand why the FBI thinks the Prescott case against the defendants is so critical.

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