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Environmental Terrorism

Environmental terrorism is commonly referred to as "ecoterrorism," a combination of the terms ecology and terrorism. An environmental protection movement began in the 1970s when Congress passed a number of environmental protection laws (see chapter 9, Environmental Crime). By 1980 some environmentalists believed little progress was being made to halt developers and industries destroying wilderness areas for profit.

Some environmentalists decided to take action and used ideas from two books, The Monkey Wrench Gang (1975) by Edward Abbey, a former forest ranger, and Ecodefense: A Field Guide to Monkeywrenching (1985) by Dave Foreman. These books discussed environmental protection "techniques" such as driving large stakes into trees scheduled for logging (which can destroy logging equipment) or setting fire to construction equipment and property. These techniques became environmental terrorist tools.

Foreman founded the terrorist group Earth First! in 1979. Its members successfully used the tree stake method, which does not hurt the trees, in California and the Pacific Northwest to slow logging. Earth First! members also set fires and cut livestock fences in protest of overgrazed grassland. Another ecoterrorist group, the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), formed in the late 1990s when Earth First! began backing away from violent activities. The FBI considers ELF one of the major terrorist groups within the United States.

ELF's terror act of choice is setting fires. Claiming a Vail, Colorado, ski resort negatively impacted the habitat of the lynx (a type of wild cat), ELF set fire to a portion of the resort on October 18, 1998, resulting in $12 million damage. In the 2000s ELF was responsible for burning sport utility vehicles (SUVs) on car lots as well as mansions under construction in Southern California.

The Animal Liberation Front (ALF) carries out terrorist activities directed at university research centers that use animals in experiments. They also target industries that they believe harm animals. Examples of businesses hit by ALF are mink breeders, trapping supply companies, and biological supply companies that provide dead animals for research and biology classes.

The FBI reported that environmental and animal rights terrorists groups committed fifty-nine criminal acts in the United States in 2003. It also reported that ELF openly claimed that it caused about $55 million in damages to industries in 2003.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationCrime and Criminal LawTerrorism - Nationalistic Terrorism, Religious Terrorism, State-sponsored Terrorism, Political-social Terrorism, Environmental Terrorism - Terrorist tools