- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 10, 2002

An extremist environmental group is taking credit for torching a Forest Service laboratory in August and is threatening more violence against the agency.
The Earth Liberation Front (ELF) caused $700,000 in damage and destroyed 70 years of research at the Irvine, Pa., facility.
"In pursuance of justice, freedom, and equal consideration for all innocent life across the board, segments of this global revolutionary movement are no longer limiting their revolutionary potential by adhering to a flawed, inconsistent, non-violent ideology," the group said last week in an e-mail from its Portland, Ore.-based press office.
"While innocent life will never be harmed in any action we undertake, where it is necessary, we will no longer hesitate to pick up the gun to implement justice, and provide the needed protection for our planet that decades of legal battles, pleading protest, and economic sabotage have failed so drastically to achieve," it said.
Bill Wasley, director of Forest Service law enforcement, said security has been raised at agency offices and employees have been made aware that they could be targets.
"What I didn't like about it at all is the reference to using guns," Mr. Wasley said.
ELF membership figures are unknown because the group operates in "cells" that may consist of one or many individuals. Since 1997, according to its Web site, ELF has carried out dozens of actions, causing more than $30 million in damage.
The Aug. 11 fire and the timing of the message, issued just days before the anniversary of the September 11 attacks, has angered Capitol Hill lawmakers, who call it a "cowardly arsonist act."
"World terrorists are against our economic system, and in reality, these people are, too they want the Earth for the critters without human involvement," said Rep. John E. Peterson, Pennsylvania Republican.
The facility was located in Mr. Peterson's congressional district, 30 miles from his home. The research there focused on maintaining a healthy forest ecosystem on the Allegheny Plateau.
ELF said the fire was in response to "threats posed to life in the Allegheny Forest by proposed timber sales, oil drilling, and greed driven manipulation of nature."
"It's very disturbing, I don't know how you rationalize burning down a building where research is being done on how to grow trees better and faster. This was good research," Mr. Peterson said.
"It's very concerning when you have people willing to blow up buildings and destroy property and to risk life over false issues. They have very twisted minds, in my view," he said.
The communication said the facility was strategically targeted, and if rebuilt, will be "targeted again for complete destruction." Construction on a new building began two days before ELF took responsibility for the fire.
"Furthermore, all other U.S. Forest Service administration research facilities, as well as all [Forest Service] buildings nationwide should now be considered likely targets," the message said.
The FBI has identified ELF as one of the country's primary domestic terrorism threats, and national forests are ground zero, said Rep. Scott McInnis, Colorado Republican and chairman of the Resources subcommittee on forests and forest health.
ELF gained notoriety after destroying five buildings and four ski lifts at the Vail Mountain ski resort in Colorado more than two years ago "on behalf of the lynx," causing $12 million in damage.
Mr. McInnis, who represented the congressional district before district lines were redrawn, chaired a House hearing earlier this year on ecoterrorism.
"ELF's latest language clearly suggests an escalation of violence and the threat to human life, and as I have long said, it is only matter of time before their parade of terror results in human lives lost," Mr. McInnis said.
"Threatening 'maximum retaliation' against the employees of the U.S. government, such as Forest Service rangers, is criminal and clearly strips away any 'Robin Hood' image ELF hopes to portray," he said.
Lawmakers say the domestic terrorists should be pursued as aggressively as foreign ones.
"Ecoterrorism should outrage and disgust every American, especially as we continue to reflect on the heroes who lost their lives on September 11," said Rep. George P. Radanovich, California Republican.
"This group of extremists has forever damned their cause and should be treated by law enforcement as a threat to our national security. ELF is as cowardly as al Qaeda and as dangerous as the Taliban. It is critical for us to track them down and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law," he said.

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