Uncivil Disobedience

A brief history of environmentally motivated monkeywrenching

Jan 6, 2001
Outside Magazine

Early- to mid-1970s Arizona's "Eco-Raiders," Minnesota's "Bolt Weevils," and Chicago's lone saboteur "The Fox" vandalize corporate and industrial sites, give birth to modern ecotage.

1975 Edward Abbey's The Monkey Wrench Gang romanticizes ecoterrorism.
1980 Earth First! founded. Dave Foreman and four fellow eco-radicals inaugurate a decadelong campaign of civil disobedience and monkeywrenching.

1985 Ecodefense!, Foreman's how-to manual, offers tips on tree spiking, power-line slicing.

1987 Cloverdale, California: The spike hits the saw. A 23-year-old mill worker is hospitalized with facial wounds when his blade shatters upon hitting a 60-penny nail embedded in a redwood.

1989 FBI arrests Foreman for Arizona ecotage. Charges are eventually dropped.

October 1996 Detroit, Oregon: Earth Liberation Front debuts, torching Forest Service truck. ELF allies with animal-rights group Animal Liberation Front soon after.

October 1998 Vail, Colorado: Predawn arson attack on Vail ski resort turns $12 million lodge to charcoal. ELF claims responsibility.

December 1999 Monmouth, Oregon: $1 million fire in Boise Cascade office claimed by ELF.

December 1999 Lansing, Michigan: ELF widens purview to include genetic engineering, torches office in MSU agriculture building.

January 2000 Bloomington, Indiana: ELF burns house under construction. Mandate widens to target sprawl.

Nov.­Dec. 2000 ELF roasts houses in Niwot, Colorado, and Long Island, New York.

February 2001 Visalia, California: ELF claims arson of cotton gin to protest genetically altered cotton.  

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