Other Group

Earth First!

Earthfirstmonkeywrench (link)
Website:

www.earthfirstjournal.news

Location:

Kansan City, MO

Founded:

1979

Status:

Self-Identified Collective

Earth First! is a radical environmentalist group that critics argue has endorsed violence and property destruction in support of environmentalist ends. It has used the slogan “no compromise in defense of mother earth” [1] and endorsed the proposition that “humankind is no greater than any other form of life and has no legitimate claim to dominate earth” and “all human decisions should consider earth first and humankind second.” [2]

Earth First! has used radical and violent tactics to achieve its goals including tree spikes, cutting power and gas lines, blocking roads with cement barricades, tree sitting, and sabotaging machines and equipment. [3]

Founding and History

Earth First! was formed in 1979-1980 [4] [5] by Dave Foreman, Mike Roselle, Howard Wolke, Bart Koehler, and Ron Kezar. [6] Foreman, a lobbyist for the Wilderness Society, decided that the “mildly reformist stance” had not worked and the group formed Earth First! based on the 1975 novel by Edward Abbey The Monkey Wrench Gang. [7] The fictional book follows four environmentalists in the southwest United States using sabotage to protect the environment. [8]

Earth First! uses radical tactics and methods designed to enable groups like the Sierra Club and Wilderness Society to take more liberal positions without looking “radical.” [9] From its inception, Earth First! has promoted removing dams from rivers, tree sitting, and blocking roadways to logging sites. It has refused to condemn ecological sabotage. [10] Earth First! follows an anarchist philosophy in having no formal structure, no staff, and no leaders. It also referred to itself as a collective and not an organization. [11] By 1990, Earth First! was engaging in more destructive “monkey wrenching” to ruin logging equipment and increased violent methods that led to many of the founders leaving the organization. [12] Earth First! currently has affiliates in at least 26 states and 11 countries. [13]

Methods and Controversies

Philosophy

Earth First! does not recognize forms of government, often referring to political divisions as “so called” state or county. [14] Its website maintains a list and status of “informants,” people who have informed or testified against Earth First! members. [15] The website also has a section dedicated to remembering eco-activists who are currently incarcerated for crimes. [16] One of its founders Dave Foreman has called humans a “cancer on nature.” [17]

iEcodefense: A Field Guide to Monkeywrenching

Dave Foreman, a founder and leading voice in Earth First!, authored a book in 1985 titled Ecodefense: A Field Guide to Monkeywrenching. [18] In the book, Foreman provides a detailed guide on a variety of methods of sabotage including how to properly spike trees for maximum damage to loggers; to sabotage power lines, mines and mining equipment; to plug waste discharge pipes; to ruin dam machinery, to select which ranchers to target for sabotage; to spike roads, to disable heavy equipment; to damage airplanes and helicopters; to disable submarines; to promote propaganda; and to hide evidence of illegal activity. [19]

Logging and Timber

Earth First! is probably most notorious for environmental activists placing spikes in trees to prevent logging or injure loggers. [20] The group protested at the Headwaters Forest Reserve in California after the Pacific Lumber Company was bought by Charles Hurwitz and his company Maxxam with plans to increase logging. [21] Earth First! protested at the active logging site. Its attempt to halt work resulted in an activist being struck and killed by a falling tree. [22]

Between 1992 and 1998, the U.S. Forest Service announced the sale of timber covering more than 6,000 acres of the Nez Perce National Forest in Idaho. [23] Earth First! protestors attempted to thwart the sale by occupying the forest, using cement and wooden logs to barricade roads, and locking themselves to U.S. Forest Service vehicles. [24]

During Earth First!’s 1995 “Free Cascadia” occupation in Oregon, the group built fortified barricades, watch towers, tree sitting sites, and attempted to padlock logging helicopters. [25] The group initially targeted Warner Creek in the winter, moved to Sugarloaf Mountain by summer, and then to occupied a timber site known as “China Left” by fall. By then, Earth First! used such methods as human and cement blockades to obstruct roads into the forest, allowing the group to further block access points to the forest, including using trucks and cement to shut off the only bridge into the valley. [26]

1989 FBI Sting

In 1989, the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) had an undercover agent inside Earth First! in Arizona. [27] Alleged Earth First! sabotage included severing dozens of power lines, downing a pylon supporting a ski lift near Tucson, and attempting to destroy power line towers. [28] Foreman and three others were charged with conspiring to sabotage three nuclear facilities while the other three were also charged with counts of destroying public property at an energy facility. [29] Foreman eventually pled guilty to a misdemeanor and received a $250 fine while the other 3 charged received jail time and fines for their roles in other Earth First! activities. [30]

Judi Bari Car Bomb

In 1990, a bomb exploded in the car being driven by Earth First! activist Judi Bari and fellow activist Daryl Cherney. [31] The blast resulted in injuries, and both were arrested under suspicion they were carrying the bomb when it detonated. [32] Neither was ever charged with a crime, but police suspected they may have been involved with domestic terrorism. [33] Subsequently, a civil suit was filed against the FBI and Oakland police department for violating their civil rights. The suit resulted in a jury award of $2.9 million to the estate of the late Bari and $1.5 million to Cherney. [34]

Recent Activity

In December 2020, a gas pipeline in Aspen, Colorado, with the writing Earth First! was sabotaged, turning off heat to 3,500 people. [35] Beginning in April 2021, Earth First! activists have been tree sitting in Jackson Demonstration Forest delaying the logging operation in California. [36]

Key Members

Dave Foreman is one of the founders of Earth First! and author of the organization’s unofficial handbook, Ecodefense: A Field Guide to Monkeywrenching. [37] Foreman has called humans “a disease, a cancer on nature” and stated “a human life has no more intrinsic value than an individual grizzly bear.” [38] Early in life, Foreman campaigned for Barry Goldwater and formed the conservative Young Americans For Freedom chapter on his college campus. [39] From 1973-1980 he worked for the Wilderness Society as Southwest Regional representative in New Mexico and then as Director of Wilderness Affairs in Washington, D.C. [40] Foreman was the unofficial head of Earth First! until 1990 when he left the group claiming his “man is the enemy” philosophy had been coopted by the social justice left. [41] In 1991 he founded the Wildlands Network. From 1995-1997 he was on the board of directors at the Sierra Club. In 2003, he co-founded a new think tank, the Wildlands Project.

Howie Wolke is one of the founders of Earth First! and former Wyoming staff member for Friends of the Earth. [42] Wolke is the author of two books, Wilderness on the Rocks and Big Outside (co-written with Dave Foreman). He currently sits on the board of directors of Wilderness Watch, an environmental non-profit. [43] Foreman teaches a class on “The American Wilderness” at Montana State University-Billings and owns Big Wild Adventures, a wilderness backpacking and canoeing company in Montana. [44]

Bart Koehler is one of the founding members of Earth First!. In the 1970s, Koehler was a lobbyist for the Wyoming Outdoor Council and staff member of the Wilderness Society in Wyoming. [45] Previously, Koehler worked as executive director of the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, and most recently as director of the Wilderness Support Center (a division of the Wilderness Society). [46]

Tracy Stone-Manning is an environmental activist and Democratic Party staffer who worked for the National Wildlife Federation. Stone-Manning was a spokesperson for Earth First! and in 1989 edited and mailed an anonymous letter to the U.S. Forest Service warning of “spiked” trees in Idaho making them potentially deadly to lumberjacks. [47] She previously worked for U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-MT), the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, and as Chief of Staff to former Montana Governor Steve Bullock (D). [48] In 2021, President Joe Biden nominated her to become director of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. [49]

References

  1. Taylor, Bron. “Radical Environmentalism’s Print History: From Earth First! to Wild Earth.” Environment & Society Portal, Virtual Exhibitions 2018, no. 1. Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society. 2018. www.doi.org/10.5282/rcc/7988. ^
  2. Foreman, Dave. “Earth First Founding Statement of Principles.” Memo to Earth First! Members. September 1, 1980. Accessed September 20, 2021. https://www.environmentandsociety.org/sites/default/files/taylor_radicalenvironmentalism_2018_1.pdf. ^
  3. Lerner, Michael. “The FBI vs. the Monkeywrenchers: The Eco-Guerillas of Earth First! Say They’re Saving The Planet: The Government Calls Them Criminal Saboteurs.” Los Angeles Times. April 15, 1990. Accessed September 12, 2021. https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1990-04-15-tm-2077-story.html; Foreman, Dave and Bill Haywood. “Ecodefense: A Field Guide to Monkeywrenching.” Ned Ludd Books. 1985. (available online at: https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/various-authors-ecodefense-a-field-guide-to-monkeywrenching.); Grandoni, Dino and Josh Partlow, “As a Student, Tracy Stone-Manning Sent a Letter on Behalf of Eco-Saboteurs. It’s Now Complicating Her Chance to Lead the Bureau of Land Management.,” The Washington Post. July 6, 2021. Accessed September 17, 2021. https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2021/07/04/student-tracy-stone-manning-sent-letter-behalf-eco-saboteurs-its-now-complicating-her-chance-lead-bureau-land-management/. ^
  4. Earth First! Journal website. www.earthfirstjournal.org. Accessed September 12, 2021. https://earthfirstjournal.org/about/. ^
  5. Lerner, Michael. “The FBI vs. the Monkeywrenchers: The Eco-Guerillas of Earth First! Say They’re Saving the Planet: The Government Calls Them Criminal Saboteurs.” Los Angeles Times. April 15, 1990. Accessed September 12, 2021. https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1990-04-15-tm-2077-story.html. ^
  6. Lerner, Michael. “The FBI vs. the Monkeywrenchers: The Eco-Guerillas of Earth First! Say They’re Saving the Planet: The Government Calls Them Criminal Saboteurs.” Los Angeles Times. April 15, 1990. Accessed September 12, 2021. https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1990-04-15-tm-2077-story.html. ^
  7. Lerner, Michael. “The FBI vs. the Monkeywrenchers: The Eco-Guerillas of Earth First! Say They’re Saving the Planet: The Government Calls Them Criminal Saboteurs.” Los Angeles Times. April 15, 1990. Accessed September 12, 2021. https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1990-04-15-tm-2077-story.html. ^
  8. Abbey, Edward. “The Monkey Wrench Gang.” Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins Publisher, 1975. ^
  9. Wolkie, Howie. “Earth First! A Founders Story.” The Anarchist Library website. April 6, 2006. Accessed September 17, 2021. https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/howie-wolke-earth-first-a-founder-s-story. ^
  10. Wolkie, Howie. “Earth First! A Founders Story.” The Anarchist Library website. April 6, 2006. Accessed September 17, 2021. https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/howie-wolke-earth-first-a-founder-s-story. ^
  11. Wolkie, Howie. “Earth First! A Founders Story.” The Anarchist Library website. April 6, 2006. Accessed September 17, 2021. https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/howie-wolke-earth-first-a-founder-s-story. ^
  12. Wolkie, Howie. “Earth First! A Founders Story.” The Anarchist Library website. April 6, 2006. Accessed September 17, 2021. https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/howie-wolke-earth-first-a-founder-s-story. ^
  13. Earth First! Journal website. “Eco Action Group Directory.” www.earthfirstjournal.news. Accessed September 19, 2021. https://earthfirstjournal.news/eco-action-group-directory/. ^
  14. Earth First! Journal website. www.earthfirstjournal.news. Accessed September 19, 2021. https://earthfirstjournal.news/2021/04/07/earth-first-spring-gathering-2021-reportback/. ^
  15. Earth First! Journal website. www.earthfirstjournal.news. Accessed September 19, 2021. https://earthfirstjournal.news/informants/. ^
  16. [1] Earth First! Journal website. www.earthfirstjournal.news. Accessed September 19, 2021. https://earthfirstjournal.news/prisoners/. ^
  17. “Protector or Provocateur? Dave Foreman , Cofounder of the Radical Group Earth First!, Faces Trial For Conspiracy.” Sports Illustrated, May 27, 1991. https://vault.si.com/vault/1991/05/27/protector-or-provocateur-dave-foreman-cofounder-of-the-radical-group-earth-first-faces-trial-for-conspiracy-also-at-issue-to-what-extremes-may-environmentalists-protests-go. ^
  18. Foreman, Dave and Bill Haywood. “Ecodefense: A Field Guide to Monkeywrenching.” Ned Ludd Books. 1985. (available online at: https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/various-authors-ecodefense-a-field-guide-to-monkeywrenching.) ^
  19. Foreman, Dave and Bill Haywood. “Ecodefense: A Field Guide to Monkeywrenching.” Ned Ludd Books. 1985. (available online at: https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/various-authors-ecodefense-a-field-guide-to-monkeywrenching.) ^
  20. “Protector or Provocateur? Dave Foreman , Cofounder of the Radical Group Earth First!, Faces Trial For Conspiracy.” Sports Illustrated, May 27, 1991. https://vault.si.com/vault/1991/05/27/protector-or-provocateur-dave-foreman-cofounder-of-the-radical-group-earth-first-faces-trial-for-conspiracy-also-at-issue-to-what-extremes-may-environmentalists-protests-go. ^
  21. Lindsey, Robert. “Ancient Redwoods Fall to a Wall Street Takeover.” New York Times. March 2, 1988. Accessed September 19, 2021. https://www.nytimes.com/1988/03/02/us/ancient-redwoods-fall-to-a-wall-street-takeover.html. ^
  22. Rosenfeld, Seth. “Death and Anguish in the Redwood Wars.” San Francisco Examiner. March 14, 1999. Accessed September 19, 2021. https://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Death-and-anguish-in-the-redwood-wars-3309094.php. ^
  23. Ashton, Linda. “’Unwelcome Mat’ Is Out for Earth Firsters in Some Idaho Towns.” Los Angeles Times, January 1, 1995. Accessed September 19, 2021. https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1995-01-01-me-15242-story.html. ^
  24. Freeman, Ross. “Logging Protestors Say They Won’t Give Up.” High Country News. March 6, 1995. Accessed September 19, 2021. https://www.hcn.org/issues/30/857. ^
  25. Davis, Troy. “Last Line of Defense, Civil Disobedience and Protest Slowdown ‘Lawless Logging.’” High Country News. September 2, 1996. Accessed September 19, 2021. https://www.hcn.org/issues/89/2747. ^
  26. Chilson, Peter. “In Oregon, Tension Over Coho and Trees.” High County News. July 7, 1997. http://www.hcn.org/issues/105/3290. ^
  27. Lerner, Michael. “The FBI vs. the Monkeywrenchers: The Eco-Guerillas of Earth First! Say They’re Saving the Planet: The Government Calls Them Criminal Saboteurs.” Los Angeles Times. April 15, 1990. Accessed September 12, 2021. https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1990-04-15-tm-2077-story.html. ^
  28. Lerner, Michael. “The FBI vs. the Monkeywrenchers: The Eco-Guerillas of Earth First! Say They’re Saving the Planet: The Government Calls Them Criminal Saboteurs.” Los Angeles Times. April 15, 1990. Accessed September 12, 2021. https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1990-04-15-tm-2077-story.html. ^
  29. Lerner, Michael. “The FBI vs. the Monkeywrenchers: The Eco-Guerillas of Earth First! Say They’re Saving the Planet: The Government Calls Them Criminal Saboteurs.” Los Angeles Times. April 15, 1990. Accessed September 12, 2021. https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1990-04-15-tm-2077-story.html. ^
  30. St. Clair, Jeffrey and Joshua Frank. “Dave Foreman and the First Green Scare.” Counterpunch. November 20, 2015. Accessed September 12, 2021. https://www.counterpunch.org/2015/11/20/dave-foreman-and-the-first-green-scare-case/. ^
  31. Herron Zamora, Jim and Henry K. Lee. “Earth First Activists Win Case- FBI, Cops Must Pay $4.4 Million For Actions After Car Bombing.” San Francisco Chronicle. June 11, 2002. Accessed September 20, 2021. https://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Earth-First-activists-win-case-FBI-cops-must-2829885.php. ^
  32. Herron Zamora, Jim and Henry K. Lee. “Earth First Activists Win Case- FBI, Cops Must Pay $4.4 Million For Actions After Car Bombing.” San Francisco Chronicle. June 11, 2002. Accessed September 20, 2021. https://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Earth-First-activists-win-case-FBI-cops-must-2829885.php. ^
  33. Herron Zamora, Jim and Henry K. Lee. “Earth First Activists Win Case- FBI, Cops Must Pay $4.4 Million For Actions After Car Bombing.” San Francisco Chronicle. June 11, 2002. Accessed September 20, 2021. https://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Earth-First-activists-win-case-FBI-cops-must-2829885.php. ^
  34. Herron Zamora, Jim and Henry K. Lee. “Earth First Activists Win Case- FBI, Cops Must Pay $4.4 Million For Actions After Car Bombing.” San Francisco Chronicle. June 11, 2002. Accessed September 20, 2021. https://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Earth-First-activists-win-case-FBI-cops-must-2829885.php. ^
  35. Auslander, Jason. “FBI Aids in Investigation of Gas Pipeline Sabotage That Turned Off Heat to Aspen.” The Colorado Sun. December 28, 2020. Accessed September 20, 2021. https://coloradosun.com/2020/12/28/aspen-gas-pipeline-ecoterrorism-sabotage/. ^
  36. Price, Austin. “Activists Stand Guard Over California Redwoods Amid Logging Threat.” Earth Island Journal. September 16, 2021. Accessed September 20, 2021. https://www.earthisland.org/journal/index.php/articles/entry/activists-stand-guard-over-california-redwoods-amid-logging-threat/. ^
  37. Foreman, Dave and Bill Haywood. “Ecodefense: A Field Guide to Monkeywrenching.” Ned Ludd Books. 1985. (available online at: https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/various-authors-ecodefense-a-field-guide-to-monkeywrenching.) ^
  38. “Protector or Provocateur? Dave Foreman , Cofounder of the Radical Group Earth First!, Faces Trial For Conspiracy.” Sports Illustrated, May 27, 1991. https://vault.si.com/vault/1991/05/27/protector-or-provocateur-dave-foreman-cofounder-of-the-radical-group-earth-first-faces-trial-for-conspiracy-also-at-issue-to-what-extremes-may-environmentalists-protests-go. ^
  39. “Protector or Provocateur? Dave Foreman , Cofounder of the Radical Group Earth First!, Faces Trial For Conspiracy.” Sports Illustrated, May 27, 1991. https://vault.si.com/vault/1991/05/27/protector-or-provocateur-dave-foreman-cofounder-of-the-radical-group-earth-first-faces-trial-for-conspiracy-also-at-issue-to-what-extremes-may-environmentalists-protests-go. ^
  40. “Protector or Provocateur? Dave Foreman , Cofounder of the Radical Group Earth First!, Faces Trial For Conspiracy.” Sports Illustrated, May 27, 1991. https://vault.si.com/vault/1991/05/27/protector-or-provocateur-dave-foreman-cofounder-of-the-radical-group-earth-first-faces-trial-for-conspiracy-also-at-issue-to-what-extremes-may-environmentalists-protests-go. ^
  41. Wolkie, Howie. “Earth First! A Founders Story.” The Anarchist Library website. April 6, 2006. Accessed September 17, 2021. https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/howie-wolke-earth-first-a-founder-s-story; Angus, Ian. “Dave Foreman’s Man Swarm: Defending Wildlife by Attacking Immigrants.” Climate and Capitalism website. www.climateandcapitalism.com. April 25, 2012. Accessed September 20, 2021. https://climateandcapitalism.com/2012/04/25/dave-foreman-defending-wildlife-by-attacking-immigrants/. ^
  42. Wolkie, Howie. “Earth First! A Founders Story.” The Anarchist Library website. April 6, 2006. Accessed September 17, 2021. https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/howie-wolke-earth-first-a-founder-s-story. ^
  43. Wilderness Watch website. www.wildernesswatch.org. Accessed September 13, 2021. https://wildernesswatch.org/board. ^
  44. Big Wild Adventures website. www.bigwildadventures.com. Accessed September 13, 2021. https://www.bigwildadventures.com/about/founders/. ^
  45. “Bart Koehler, Environmental Advocate.” High Country News. May 10, 1974. Accessed September 13, 2021. https://s3.amazonaws.com/hcn-media/archive-pdf/1974_05_10.pdf. ^
  46. Badlands Conservation Alliance website. “From the Newsletter Archives: Winter Soltice 1999 Issue.” May 17, 2019. Accessed September 14, 2021. https://www.badlandsconservationalliance.org/news/archives. ^
  47. Grandoni, Dino and Josh Partlow, “As a Student, Tracy Stone-Manning Sent a Letter on Behalf of Eco-Saboteurs. It’s Now Complicating Her Chance to Lead the Bureau of Land Management.,” The Washington Post. July 6, 2021. Accessed September 17, 2021. https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2021/07/04/student-tracy-stone-manning-sent-letter-behalf-eco-saboteurs-its-now-complicating-her-chance-lead-bureau-land-management/. ^
  48. Tracy Stone-Manning Linkedin profile. www.linkedin.com. Accessed September 14, 2021. https://www.linkedin.com/in/tracy-stone-manning-49a1542a/. ^
  49. Lundquist, Laura. “Biden taps Missoula’s Tracy Stone-Manning to lead Bureau of Land Management.” Missoula Current. April 14, 2021. Accessed September 14, 2021. https://missoulacurrent.com/outdoors/2021/04/tracy-stone-manning/. ^

Directors, Employees & Supporters

  1. Tracy Stone-Manning
    Former Associate
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Earth First!

P.O. Box 411892
Kansan City, MO