Appalachian Basin

Earth First! Climbing into Forests to Stop Shale

Editors Note:  The following story, authored by our associate, Shawn Bennett, of EID Ohio, provides some essential background on a group that first made its appearance with respect to natural gas development in our own region a few months ago.  They are now targeting Ohio as well.  What he says applies equally to our own EID Marcellus region.

As shale development continues to provide great opportunities for Ohioans, it is also gaining popularity with self-described radical environmental organizations.  This can be noticed it what seems to be a benign tree-climbing-activist camp outside of Athens hosted by the group Earth First! However, if one digs a bit deeper they can find the Earth First! Climber’s Guild has ties to a deeper, less-than-noble agenda.

The climbing camp – to be held from September 22nd-28th – will help provide activists with the climbing skills needed to temporarily disrupt shale development by, you guessed it – climbing trees.  At this camp, activists will train to rope off roadways to not allow trucks to pass, display banners, live in these trees if needed, and perhaps do all of this without falling and hurting themselves.

While some think they may just be climbing trees for a week (and let’s face it that sounds pretty fun), this is not a wholesome, run of the mill organization. Earth First! has been around for over 30 years, with a mission statement of No Compromise in the Defense of Mother Earth! and employs tactics that encourage destruction and put people’s lives in danger.

They describe themselves on their website as such:

Earth First! takes a decidedly different tack towards environmental issues. We believe in using all the tools in the tool box, ranging from grassroots organizing and involvement in the legal process to civil disobedience and monkeywrenching.

According to their website, monkeywrenching is defined as follows:

Monkeywrenching: Ecotage, ecodefense, billboard bandits, desurveying, road reclamation, tree spiking, even fire. All of these terms describe the unlawful sabotage of industrial extraction and development equipment, as a means of striking at the Earth’s destroyers where they commit their crimes and hitting them where they feel it most—in their profit margins. (emphasis added)

At a glance, one may think this group must have had their website hacked and has just been too busy to fix such outrageous claims.  But with a quick internet search I found a couple more quotes from their founders that support the illegal activity.

Monkey-wrenching is more than just sabotage, and you’re g*ddamn right, it’s revolutionary! This is jihad, pal.— Earth First! co-founder Mike Roselle, (Earth First! Journal, December 1994/January 1995, emphasis added)

In some cases burning a target is the most effective way of decommissioning it. — Earth First! founder Dave Foreman, Ecodefense: A Field Guide To Monkeywrenching

Organizations such as Earth First see growth as evil- from your local car dealership to your favorite ski resort, both of which have been targets of the sister organizations of Earth First, and the Earth Liberation Front (ELF). These incidents caused millions of dollars in damage and could have easily ended with an injury or loss of life.

Some of these activities are covered in their publication, Earth First! Journal that has gained such followers as Ted Kaczynski, more commonly referred to as “The Unabomber”. Although Ted Kaczynski is serving 4 life sentences, he still enjoys reading Earth First! Journal.  In fact he mentioned it in a letter he wrote to a Denver newscaster Rick Sallinger regarding an Earth First! editorial highlighting an arson at a ski resort in Vail, Colorado by the ELF.

“I fully approve of [the arson],” he wrote Sallinger, “and I congratulate the people who carried it out.” Kaczynski went on to commend an editorial in the Earth First! Journal by Theresa Kintz, who wrote, “The Earth Liberation Front’s eco-sabotage of Vail constituted a political act of conscience perfectly in keeping with the sincere expression of the biocentric paradigm many Earth First!ers espouse.”-Harvard and the Making of the Unabomber by Alston Chase

The Earth First! Journal has also interviewed convicted arsonists and has romanticized their actions which could plant dangerous seeds into the minds of their readers.  For an interview titled “Living the Truth: an Interview with Rod Coronado” from the March-April 2003 edition of Earth First! Journal, they sat down with Rodney Coronado, a convicted arsonist.  In the article they helped provide insight on how to get away with illegal acts of destruction in the name of the environment.

EF!J: Unfortunately, it seems like more folks are getting caught. Are there any words of wisdom or lessons that you want to convey to potential elves to keep them safe?

RC: Hopefully, it seems that way because there are just more people fed up and taking action. Words of wisdom to all ELF and ALF warriors out there: Stay away from your old friends and familiar above ground political scenes; don’t use computers or telephones for anything; don’t put any faith in techy gadgets; keep it simple; never use your own vehicle or those of other activists; physical exercise (think of the embarrassment of being run down by a cop); and don’t pinch pennies, your freedom is worth the few extra bucks it costs to increase your security. Pray to the powers of Earth for guidance–stealth of Cougar, night sight of Owl, like lightning, the power to strike your enemies suddenly and return home safely. I love you all, and I’m praying for you to make it count. Maximum destruction! Not minimum damage. – Rodney Coronado, Living the Truth (emphasis added)

Unfortunately it is only a matter of time before these folks try to make a presence in Ohio.  In fact, they have already begun such tactics in neighboring Pennsylvania.  For their last event they even used the same tactics they are promoting in their workshop to disrupt an EQT site by dragging fallen trees into the road and climbing trees in order to rope off entrances to the site.  They were caught and brought to justice, but not before risking lives in order to promote their message.

Earth First! Activists

As active self-promoters, Earth First chronicled their misadventures for everyone to see on their Marcellus website.  They also chronicled the event to help raise bail money for their comrades.

These folks – coming from out of state – refuse to recognize the fact Ohio’s oil and gas industry has been operating safely and responsibly for over 150 years. By advocating destruction, Earth First! stands to create more damage from their dangerous antics than shale development has here in Ohio. Especially considering that development has occurred without a single environmental incident to date.

In closing, below is a video of a North Carolina faction of Earth First crying over a fallen old growth tree.  While they are mourning the death of the tree, if groups like these are successful in their efforts to thwart shale development, it will be Ohioans, Pennsylvanians and New Yorkers mourning the loss of job growth and economic benefits supported by shale development due to the radical agenda of a group that is on the fringe of the fringe.


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