Environment: Lock and Load! Industry Goon at 12 o’clock!

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Outside magazine, April 1996

Environment: Lock and Load! Industry Goon at 12 o’clock!

Meet Rick Valois, commander-in-chief of the first eco-militia
By Bill Donahue

He’s probably the only environmentalist in the United States with camo-clad, gun-toting foot soldiers at his command, and his battle plan is pretty straightforward: If anyone attacks Ric Valois or the Environmental Rangers, as his tiny green militia is known, the auburn-haired, 44-year-old tree trimmer from Vaughn, Montana, promises to “disarm the enemy, strip them naked,
destroy everything they leave behind, and use their ammo to win.”

Or something like that. In real life, the Rangers are perhaps 20 motley combatants who haven’t changed the world just yet. Founded a few years back, they’ve spied on a Pegasus Gold Mine operation, stymied a group of bear trappers, and videotaped loggers illegally overcutting in Idaho’s Nez Perce National Forest. Here, on the eve of “big doings” for the Rangers this spring,
Valois’s thoughts on what he believes is the coming green jihad.

Do you think it’s make-or-break time for the environment?
Definitely. It’s 1491. They’re the conquistadores, and we’re the Indians. And this time, we’re not gonna die.

How do you plan to get the job done with such a minuscule force?
Well, we’ve developed certain tactics. I can’t tell you about them, obviously, but we’re pretty good out there in them hills. It’s hard to beat guys who have eyes in the back of their heads.

Have you taken any hostages yet?
No, but we’ve had psychological encounters. Once I went to Idaho to do some bodyguarding at a public hearing on logging. I came ready for bear. I had my semiautomatic. I had my shotgun. I had two .45s. And I looked at those industry goons and I said, “Now’s your chance, badasses.”

But aren’t you hopelessly outgunned? The folks you’d ultimately be fighting–the FBI, the Special Forces–would probably have tanks. Helicopters. Infrared sensors.
Infrared sensors can be defeated very easily. We’ve got old ‘Nam ponchos that are IR-proof. You can put one of those on, or you can strip down to your skivvies and cover yourself with mud. They won’t get a bead on you then.

So you’re saying, basically, that conviction beats technology.
High-tech can easily be defeated if you’re ready to embrace the land. I mean, hug it. Get right down with the mosquitoes and the spiders and the cold and the wet.

Do the Environmental Rangers ever work with other greens?
Yeah, in Idaho, the Earth First!ers asked the Rangers to bushwhack with them. These people were not expert outdoorsmen, and one guy suggested that a woman come along. I said, “Is she capable?” And she wasn’t. She didn’t bring any food or clothing, no water, no nothing, and when we offered her some meat to eat, she wasn’t real keen on it because she was a, uh, vegetarian.

How can someone enlist?
We’ve got a bunch of new recruits who we’ll train this spring in Montana. You’ll be wet, you’ll be hungry, and you’ll have a blister or two on your feet–and then we’ll have you climbing cliffs. We’ll post sentries. We might have guys eating bugs.

You eat what’s out there, partner, and there’s a lot of protein in a bug.

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