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ELF did not respond to an e-mail sent by The Washington Times to its spokesman yesterday.

In the past several years, ELF has burned down apartment complexes in San Diego and a ski resort in Colorado, vandalized sport utility vehicles at dealerships in Virginia, and destroyed construction sites and equipment in Pennsylvania. Total damage caused by the group is estimated at more than $100 million.

In 2002, a top FBI domestic terrorism official called ELF and the Animal Liberation Front, an animal rights group, the largest and most active U.S.-based terrorist organizations. No one has been injured in any of the incidents.

The Sierra Club called the Charles County development “quintessential sprawl” in its fall 2000 sprawl report, noting that it is far from existing infrastructure and “threatens a fragile wetland and important historical sites near the Chesapeake Bay.”

In 2003, a group of residents and environmental protection groups brought a suit against the Army Corps of Engineers, which authorized a permit for a sewer system and a road crossing as part of the Hunters Brooke subdivision, built by Lennar Homes of La Plata.

Arguing that the subdivision would cause severe environmental damage to the Araby Bog, the plaintiffs said the Corps’ permission violated the Clean Water Act’s restriction that such a permit be granted only when minimal harm would be done to the environment.

Represented by Georgetown University Law Center’s Institute for Public Representation (IPR), the plaintiffs received only a partial victory this summer when a judge remanded the case to the Corps, allowing the agency to provide a more detailed explanation for the merits of the permit.

Kristi M. Smith, a staff lawyer with IPR, said construction was not affected by the judge’s order and that the Corps was not likely to issue its explanation until early next year.

Patricia Stamper, a plaintiff in the lawsuit and co-chairwoman of the citizens’ group known as the Save Araby Mattawoman and Mason Springs, said although her group has fought the development’s location near the bog, it was not involved in the arson.

“The fires came as a total surprise,” she said. “I don’t know who would have done such a thing.”

• Sarah Hoffman contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.