Authorities arrest 6 ecoterror suspects
By Leslie Slape
Dec 08, 2005 - 11:58:29 pm PST
Six people were arrested Wednesday in connection with Northwest eco-terror attacks dating back to 1998, including the 2001 arson at Jefferson Poplar Farms near Clatskanie.
The arrests were made Wednesday in New York, Virginia, Oregon and Arizona, and each of the defendants has been indicted in Oregon or Washington, the U.S. attorney's office said. The attacks included three arsons in Oregon, the destruction of a research facility in Olympia and the toppling of a Bonneville Power Administration transmission tower near Bend.
The underground Earth Liberation Front and Animal Liberation Front took credit for most of the acts.
The May 21, 2001, explosive fire at Jefferson Poplar Farm destroyed two large storage buildings, shop equipment and 15 to 19 vehicles
. Damage was estimated at more than $1 million.
"We're very pleased to see that people are being brought to justice for what occurred in the bombing of the farm," said Jeff Nuss, president of GreenWood Resources in Tigard, Ore., which manages the 10,000-acre plantation. Renamed Columbia Tree Farm, it raises several varieties of hybrid
poplars for the paper industry and the solid-wood markets.
Immediately after the arson investigators suspected Earth Liberation Front, a shadowy group that uses violence to stop practices it believes are unnatural or environmentally harmful.
Graffiti reading "You cannot control what is wild" and "ELF" had been painted on a shed between the two burned buildings.
Investigators found numerous explosives, including some around the office building that did not explode. Ness said it's fortunate those bombs didn't go off because one of the farm's employees ran into the office when he arrived at the early-morning fire.
ELF spokesman Craig Rosebraugh visited the scene several hours afterward and told investigators at the time that he doubted authorities would solve the case. "The ELF came into this country in 1997 and they've done a very good job of evading most law enforcement agencies," he said.
ELF issued a statement two weeks later, claiming "we dealt a blow" to Jefferson Poplar.
"Hybrid poplars are an ecological nightmare threatening native biodiversity," the statement said.
"Give us the science behind that one," Nuss said Thursday. He said the farm uses "natural breeding techniques" and maintains genetic diversity.
No trees were destroyed in the fire, he said.
"But when you lose that level in value and assets, it affects your business a little bit," Nuss said. "We're pretty resilient. We have good people and it's a good tree farm."
Suspects Stanislas Gregory Meyerhoff, 28, and Daniel Gerard McGowan, 31, face life in prison if convicted. They also have been indicted in the Jan. 2, 2001, arson at the Superior Lumber Company, in Glendale, Ore.
Meyerhoff was arrested in Charlottesville, Va., where he was attending Piedmont Community College. McGowan was arrested in New York City.
Kevin M. Tubbs, 36, and William C. Rodgers, 40, face up to 20 years each if convicted of a June 21, 1998, arson at the Agriculture Department's Animal and Plant and Health Inspection Services facility in Olympia. Tubbs was arrested in Springfield, Ore., and Rodgers was arrested in Prescott, Ariz.
Sarah Kendall Harvey, a 28-year-old student at Northern Arizona University, was arrested in Flagstaff after being charged with a Dec. 27, 1998, fire at U.S. Forest Industries in Medford, Ore. That fire caused an estimated $500,000 in damage. She faces up to 20 years if convicted.
Chelsea Dawn Gerlach, 28, of Portland, was charged with conspiring to destroy an energy facility and destruction of an energy facility in the Dec. 30, 1999, attack on the BPA transmission tower. She faces up to 25 years.
The suspects were scheduled to make initial appearances in federal court in the districts where they were arrested.
The FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives, Eugene Police Dept., Portland Police Bureau, Oregon State Police, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Oregon Department of Justice and the Lane County Sheriff's Office participated in the investigation, which is continuing.