- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 31, 2007

DENVER — When ecoterror suspect Grant Barnes appeared in court here last week in the firebombing of sport utility vehicles, the moment seemed almost outdated.

After terrorizing the West for a decade with a series of attacks culminating in the horrific 1998 Vail Mountain fire, the Earth Liberation Front and members of similar organizations appear to have gone into hibernation.

Ecoterrorism isn’t what it used to be.

The incidents have been smaller and further between since the movement’s heyday in the late 1990s. During that time, ELF activists are blamed for hitting more than 20 targets resulting in $40 million in damage, the largest being the $12 million Vail arson.

Ron Arnold, who tracks the ecoterrorism movement, credited better law enforcement, and in particular, better cooperation between federal and local authorities for decapitating the movement by nabbing its worst perpetrators.

“Most of them are getting caught, and that’s because the FBI has been sharing information with local law enforcement like they didn’t used to,” said Mr. Arnold, who heads the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise in Bellevue, Wash.

In what appears to be the latest ELF-related incident, 24-year-old Mr. Barnes of Denver is accused of setting firebombs beneath seven SUVs during a four-day period in March. The SUVs were all parked in the upscale Cherry Creek and Lowry neighborhoods.

Fire department investigators initially downplayed the ecoterror connection, even though the initials “ELF” were found written on one vehicle. After searching Mr. Barnes’ car, however, investigators found a box of seven more devices identical to bombs seen on the ELF Web site, according to a search-warrant affidavit.

Police also found directions for making the homemade explosives entitled “Arson Around with Auntie ALF,” a reference to the Animal Liberation Front.

The Earth Liberation Front, along with its sister organization, the Animal Liberation Front, has no formal leadership, spokesmen or members. Even so, federal and local agents may have crippled the group with the December 2005 arrests of six activists involved in a terrorist cell called “the Family.”

Authorities say the Family, an intense band of eco-warriors, carried out 20 attacks from 1996 to 2001. Its leader, 40-year-old William Rodgers, committed suicide in his Flagstaff, Ariz., jail cell shortly after his arrest.

Last week, two key figures in the Family, Chelsea Dawn Gerlach and Stanislas Gregory Meyerhoff, were sentenced in federal court in Eugene, Ore., to lengthy prison terms. Nineteen defendants have since been connected to the ecoterror conspiracy, although two of those are fugitives thought to have fled the country.

Meyerhoff, 29, received 13 years for his role in the Vail fire and other ecoterror attacks in Colorado and the Pacific Northwest. In a court filing requesting leniency, he described himself as a “technician” who built incendiary devices in part to impress Gerlach.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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