Crimes in the name of the environment

Part 2 of a four-part series
by The Oregonian - September, 1999

The Oregonian, Monday, September 27, 1999



Radical environmentalists and animal rightists, once separate camps with little use for each other, have joined forces and turned eco-terrorism into a persistent threat.

The message to Craig Rosebraugh's Northeast Portland apartment - by phone or e-mail, he won't tell - was brief enough for him to jot down. Then he set about typing me October 1998 announcement about a ski resort arson at Vail, Colo.

The $1.2 million blaze was set, he told The Oregonian and other news organizations, because lynx habitat was being destroyed by the resort's expansion.

Rosebraugh insisted he did not know who had supplied the information to him or committed the crime. But he did say he agreed with the purposes of the Earth Liberation Front, which claimed responsibility for the fire and for which, he said, he was acting as spokesman.

Rosebraugh had been here before.

On June 5, 1997, he'd received similar instruction, purportedly from the Animal Liberation Front, stating responsibility for breaking into Rick Arritola's mink ranch near Mount Angel four nights earlier and freeing more than 12,000 minks. It is believed to be the largest animal release in U.S. history, a freedom sprint in which 4,000 of the minks were clawed or stomped to death in the stampede or vanished.

"This action took place not as an act of ecoterrorism, but as an act of love," Rosebraugh's announcement had stated.

And between Mount Angel and Vail, Rosebraugh spoke on behalf of the ALF and ELF as operatives loosed minks in Washington and Idaho, "liberated" rabbits from an Oregon farm and burned down a slaughterhouse in Redmond and a Bureau of Land Management horse barn near Burns.

At first blush, the 27-year-old Rosebraugh seems an improbable emissary for the eco-terrorisin sweeping the American West. But he emerged as one of several individuals whose actions figured prominently in The Oregonian's investigation of crimes committed in the name of saving the environment. The newspaper's review found 100 major incidents since 1980 that had inflicted $42.8 million in property damage - most of that in just the last three years.

Rosebraugh is a soft-spoken, painfully thin adherent of Mahatma Gandhi and nonviolent social revolution - "Nonviolence as I define it, of course," he says. A vegan, he refuses to eat or wear any animal products. He has been arrested at least 10 times since 1996 for taking part in sit-ins and other civil disobedience to protest animal research and the fur industry. He wears wire-rim glasses and keeps his hair in a short stubble.

Rosebraugh grew up in Tigard, shot birds with a BB gun, fished, ate meat and played soccer well enough to earn a partial college scholarship, which he declined.

He started listening to punk music that espoused animal rights, and later, while at Linn-Benton Community College, he wrote a paper against animal experimentation that earned him an A. In 1990, he joined an animal rights group. He defected from that group in 1996, while attending Marylhurst University, to start a more militant outfit called Liberation Collective.

He now runs the collective from a $750-a-month rented office on the tattered edge of Portland's quaint Old Town.

Law enforcement officers take Rosebraugh and his communiques very seriously. The claims of responsibility by ALF and ELF jibe with evidence uncovered in the ruins left by the attacks. And some investigators privately voice skepticism of Rosebraugh's insistence that he's merely a mouthpiece and not involved.

But those who have tried to interrogate Rosebraugh have been stonewalled - he consistently stands on free-speech rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

"I don't know what I can say other than (the communiques) come anonymously," Rosebraugh said in a recent interview. "For our own safety" - his and those contacting him - "I don't want to know who the people are."

Rosebraugh alleges that a federal agent once accosted him and told him "you're walking a very thin line," and that a federal grand jury once questioned him so aggressively that it aggravated his pericarditis, a heart condition. Still, he remains unafraid of publicly celebrating the illegal deeds of those who say they are saving the environment.

Rosebraugh wishes there were more high-profile arsons such as the Vail blaze. It drew worldwide attention and, he says, showed that a radical environmental movement in the American West was gaining momentum and impact.

"Personally," he said calmly, "I would like to see not only the number of actions increasing, but also the intensity of the actions."

America has always fostered rebels and outlaws. And it has sometimes changed, painfully, through resistance and revolt. The Boston Tea Party. The Civil War. Withdrawal from Vietnam.

But a holy war over the environment? Who is fighting in it?

Just who is sending messages to Craig Rosebraugh - if anyone at all?

Law enforcement's dismal record in solving two decades of these crimes furnishes few answers. But The Oregonian's examination reveals some key influences, personalities and milestones:

The fight for animals: Opposition in the 1960s to medical research on live animals captured popular support, particularly in the Northeast. A feature in Life magazine in 1966, before Craig Rosebraugh was born, revealed the dismal conditions of laboratory dogs, generating the most reader response in the magazine's history. A decade and a half later, a full-page ad ran in The New York Times showing a rabbit with its eyes taped shut and asking readers whether this was the fate they wished for animals.

The public responded. Congress in 1966 enacted laboratory-animal protection laws. And People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. a Norfolk. Va. - based group whose membership surpasses 600,000, was co-founded in 1980 by an Englishwoman, Ingrid Newkirk.

In England in the 1960s and '70s, a legacy of opposition to fox hunts and road-building through Britain's dwindling habitat reached a new level. Obstructionists ruined hunts with loud horns. University experimentation on animals came under siege, too. In 1976, Ronnie Lee, a prominent activist, founded the Animal Liberation Front, a group that promised to disrupt British society by committing sabotage on behalf of all animals - and did.

In 1979, when Craig Rosebraugh was just 7, ALF showed up in the United States: Vandals broke into labs at New York University Medical Center and stole one cat, two dogs and two guinea pigs. ALF, finding American adherents, would take root in the United States, moving westward and graduating from vandalism to arson. Rosebraugh would become a spokesman. Newkirk's PETA would eventually pay the legal defense fees of some key saboteurs.

The fight for wilderness: In 1968, Edward Abbey published "Desert Solitaire," a collection of essays celebrating and bemoaning a Utah wilderness succumbing to development - a sin, he contended, against the planet's ecology. Some of his readers would become leading eco-terrorists. Abbey followed in 1975 with "The Monkey Wrench Gang," his better-known novel, in which protagonists drive around the West burning down billboards and disabling construction equipment. The term "monkeywrenching", today is a staple in conversation among radical environmentalists.

Dave Foreman, a New Mexican, gave up his job in 1979 as chief lobbyist for The Wilderness Society to embark on a grass-roots campaign with a few friends to save Western wild lands. in early 1980, a month before Craig Rosebraugh turned 8, Foreman - an Eagle Scout and registered Republican - helped found Earth First! The group would use whatever peaceful means was necessary to further its cause. Its motto: "No Compromise in Defense of Mother Earth."

In March 198 1, Foreman and associates demonstrated against the flooding of pristine canyon lands by unfurling a long plastic banner down the face of Arizona's Glen Canyon Dam, giving it the appearance of having a massive crack. Earth First! was suspected of sabotaging road work and logging sites throughout the early 1980s. The group, in 1992, inspired an extremist offshoot in England, the Earth Liberation Front, for which Rosebraugh now identifies himself as chief spokesman.

Foreman cites Edward Abbey as a hero and in 1985 co-edited the manual "ECODEFENSE: A Field Guide to Monkeywrenching, " still the standard reference for environmental extremists. He also launched the Earth First! journal, the group's radical newspaper, from his home in the Southwest. The tabloid is now published from Eugene.

The fight for animals and wilderness: In 1987, by the time Craig Rosebraugh was 15 and attending Tigard High School, radical environmentalists and animal-rights advocates met near the desert town of Baker, Calif, to disrupt bighorn sheep hunts. They spent their days stalking hunters and cutting loose with air horns to scare away the sheep. At night, they shared triumphs and tears - and tokes of marijuana - over campfires.

The two camps had long looked down their noses at each other. Radical environmentalists, including some members of Earth First!, didn't understand why animal rightists stole lab rats from medical schools but failed to support wilderness protection. They saw the deserts and forests of the West as cathedrals on a planet facing extinction. The animal-rights camp, meanwhile, wondered why environmentalists claimed to care about animals but ate bacon cheeseburgers. Even so, he campfire talks led to the mutual sabotage of elk, bear and bison hunts throughout the late 1980s and into the 1990s.

The saboteurs discovered they shared a belief in the concept of deep ecology, a philosophy that human life is not separate from all other life on the planet. They came to see clear-cut forests, open-pit mines, large-scale animal farms, hydroelectric dams, fastfood restaurant chains and medical school labs as symptoms of corporate greed and cruelty.

The movers and shakers among them turned eco-terrorism into the new civil disobedience.

Some of them went in together in 1990 for a $1,900-a-month house in the mountains north of Santa Cruz, Calif., complete with a redwood deck and hot tub for 13. Tenants and visitors became a Who's Who of the West's environmental extreme: Rodney Coronado, who would later mount a multi-state arson campaign against the fur industry, left a federal penitentiary in Arizona in March and moved to Eugene, where he helped edit the Earth First! journal. Jonathan Paul, charged but not prosecuted in the 1986 sabotage of a University of Oregon animal lab, would become a leading saboteur of whale hunts off the Washington coast and now lives in Oregon's Applegate Valley.

Darryl Cherney, an organizer of Earth First!'s anti-logging crusades in the Northern California redwoods, was a guest, along with David Barbarash, a Canadian activist and convicted Animal Liberation Front guerrilla now charged with mailing letters booby-trapped with razor blades to more than 20 hunting guides.

Since 1990, The Oregonian learned in its investigation, these people and their cohorts emerged as leaders of a movement whose adherents cut a wide swath across the West: 62 major crimes totaling nearly $32.9 million in damage. The ski resort fire in Vail, Colo. - announced to the world by Portland's Rosebraugh - was at least the 36th arson or bombing believed to have been carried out by eco-terrorists in that time.

Eco-terrorists have become such a potent threat that some industry groups now keep dossiers on activists and trade e- mails to track their travels. Many are convinced eco-terrorists' actions inspired Theodore Kaczynski, the Unabomber, to kill a California timber lobbyist in 1995.

"We're not talking about dyed-in-the-wool conservationists or environmentalists who really understand the functioning of the Earth," said Teresa Platt, executive director of Fur Commission USA, based in Coronado, Calif. 'We're talking about extremists who say it is morally wrong for us to utilize the Earth. That . . . is dangerous." Animal rightists burned Platt in effigy at a demonstration Sept. 17 in San Diego.

Jonathan Paul is plain about why some activists commit crimes to make their point.

"None of the processes work ... like the legal process, litigation," he said last week. "We compare ourselves to the underground railroad, to some guerrilla movements that are trying to free themselves from oppressive governments. The only thing that's different about us is that we expand our thinking to other species and to the planet as a whole."

Since 1980, eco-terrorists have tagged their work in two of three major crimes. They represented themselves variously as the People's Brigade for a Healthy Genetic Future, the Animal Rights Militia, the Earth Night Action Group, Farm Animal Revenge Militia, Earth First, Vegan Revolution and - far more prominently and frequently - the Animal Liberation Front and the Earth Liberation Front.

Taking their cue from the Irish Republican Army and other -guerrilla groups, eco-saboteurs organize into small, tightly knit groups called cells. The cells form without leaders, delegating tasks on a need-to-know basis so that incriminating information goes unshared.

The system plays well into Craig Rosebraugh's assertions that he is clueless about who's doing the crimes.

Example: Roger Troen, a former Portland elementary-school teacher, got an anonymous phone call in October 1986 asking him to help steal research animals from two University of Oregon psychology labs. A few nights later, he helped load 100 rats, 30 mice, 11 hamsters and three rabbits into his aunt's Ford LTD and headed for Portland.

Troen, 68, maintains he did not know his accomplices, who he thinks got his name from an animal-rights group in California and correctly sized him up for his sympathies. He took the stolen rabbits to a friend's place on the Oregon coast, where a veterinarian discovered their UO tattoos and called police. A judge found Troen guilty of felony burglary, fined him $34,900 and put him on probation for five years. Three other men, including Jonathan Paul, were accused of the crime, but charges were dropped by a Lane County judge who ruled the defendants had been denied sufficient access to prosecution evidence.

Still, some of the big fish among extremists have been caught and tried.

Foreman's undoing was a group of Earth Firsters who in 1987 and 1988 toppled electrical poles leading to a uranium. mine on the south rim of the Grand Canyon and twice disabled skilift towers at Fairfield Snowbowl in Flagstaff, Ariz. A disaffected member of the group leaked plans of its next target to the FBI.

Everyone went to jail but Foreman, who pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy but never served a day. Throughout, however, their crimes looked as if they had been crafted out of Abbey's "Monkey Wrench Gang."

The years 1988 and 1989 slowed Earth First! Key members were jailed. Abbey died. And Foreman - disgusted that his group had gone from rednecks to hippies, hunters to vegetarians, conservationists I to anarchists - quit.

"It wasn't home anymore," Foreman said recently. The organization "didn't teem to have ties to the conservation movement anymore, but was more tied to the urban anarchist and animal rights movements."

Rodney Coronado, who led the early - 1990s arson spree against fur businesses on behalf of the ALF, admired Foreman. But Coronado, perhaps today's most prominent eco-terrorist, did not share Foreman's apocalyptic belief that people would ultimately ruin the Earth. He thought he could make others see things his way.

A Yaqui Indian, Coronado had grown up with traditional Native American spiritual values. He said he believed that all living things - a tree, a whale, a human - had equal importance. And he was a vegan whose credo was to walk gently on the planet, using natural resources only as necessary.

Coronado was haunted as a boy by TV images of the bloody harvests of baby harp seals in Canada. Upon graduating from high school, he went to work for the, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society to protest the hunts. in 1986, angered that Iceland was killing 200 whales a year for "scientific research" during a moratorium on whaling, Coronado and an associate traveled to Reykjavik and sank two whaling ships.

He escaped to England to sabotage fox hunts. By the time Coronado reached the United States, in late 1986, Iceland's prime minister was calling for his extradition as an international terrorist. But Iceland, perhaps understanding that Sea Shepherd would use the case to put whaling on trial, never charged him.

Coronado's exploits eventually made him a legend.

"He was kind of a mythic character even back then," said Todd Schulke, one of Coronado's old Earth First! buddies. "He was a kid then. But you know, being (in the news) for sinking whaling ships put him in that mythic category."

Foreman and other Earth First! traditionalists differed with Coronado. But Foreman also thought Coronado was extraordinarily brave and dedicated. At the group's 1988 rendezvous, Foreman's last, he applauded Coronado's whale- boat sabotage, introduced him as the next generation of eco-warrior and led the crowd in singing him "Happy Birthday."

Coronado, a newly minted hero among the West's saboteurs, was just 22.

Activists were careful at Coronado's California house. No one discussed actions in the house or in their cars, but instead on walks through the redwoods behind it, said the Canadian activist Barbarash, who stayed there frequently from 1990 to 1994.

Barbarash, who had been a teen-age punk rocker, anarchist and cruise missle protester in his native Toronto, had taken up with animal-rights extremists in the early 1980s. He had been a member of the "Kentucky Fried Five," an ALF cell caught vandalizing a fastfood restaurant in 1987. Barbarash said he traveled the West from 1989 to 1994 in a van, sometimes taking part in crimes. But he refuses to disclose them.

Along the way, he helped to blockade a logging operation in Oregon's Kalmiopsis Wilderness and protested with Earth First! at the Bonneville Dam. Police say he carried phony IDs and a map of U.S. power plants.

Between November 1989 and December 1990, eco-terrorists took credit for nine major crimes in Northern California, all unsolved. They planted incendiaries in six Bay Area department stores that sold fur clothing, brought down power lines at Watsonville and inflicted $1.9 million in damage to three pieces of logging equipment in Boonville.

The onslaught was interrupted in May 1990. A nail bomb exploded in Earth First! organizer Judi Bari's Subaru as she and fellow Earth Firster Darryl Cherney drove through Oakland, Calif., to Coronado's house. Bari's pelvis was shattered, her backbone crushed. Cherney suffered lesser wounds. The pair insisted the bomb had been planted in the car.

Bari, a Baltimore anti-war protester and labor organizer, had helped orchestrate a series of Northern California logging protests. She was among the first in Earth First! to renounce tree spiking, a tactic in which steel or ceramic spikes are driven deeply into trees, making them hazardous at the sawmill. She was conciliator more than warrior.

So it was horrifying to Bari when the FBI accused her and Cherney of knowingly transporting a bomb. But the government never prosecuted her, and the bombing remains a mystery.

The incident spooked many activists. They pointed blame at big timber companies. Coronado and Paul, feeling they might be next, headed to Oregon.

The two men worked for an East Coast animal-rights group, which in late 1990 paid them $10 an hour to document abuses of minks, bobcats, lynxes and foxes on Western fur ranches. The duo posed as prospective fur farmers.

A rancher in Hamilton, Mont., allowed them to copy the addresses of fur businesses in the Northwest. It became a hit list.

Coronado and Paul sneaked back onto several farms at night to collect videotape of animals kept in tiny cages, foxes turning insane circles in confinement and piles of skinned minks. Coronado filmed a farmer breaking the necks of minks - footage that later aired on "60 Minutes."

But Coronado wanted more: to fight back on behalf of the animals.

In early 1991, Coronado and some accomplices - Paul maintains he was not one of them - scouted targets with night-vision goggles and two-way radios to launch an Animal Liberation Front project titled "Operation Bite Back."

On June 10, 1991, they broke into storage and research buildings of an experimental mink farm at Oregon State University and set at least six timed incendiaries, causing $62,000 in damage. They trashed the lab and spray-painted an ominous message on the wall: "This is only the beginning. . ."

Five days later, they set a $500,000 fire at a mink-food supplier in Edmonds, Wash. Coronado brazenly appeared on TV news as "Jim Perez," spokesman for a fictitious anti-fur group. It is unclear whether police recognized him as the globetrotting eco-saboteur.

On Aug. 13,1991, Coronado and his crew vandalized three animal research buildings at Washington State University in Pullman. "Perez" quickly issued another press release, this one with a warning to six WSU scientists: "ALF is watching and there is no place to hide."

That December, Coronado set a $96,000 fire at a Yamhill, Ore., building in which Hynek Malecky dried mink pelts and prepared mink food. Coronado phoned the newsroom of a Portland television station to take anonymous credit on behalf of the ALF. The following February, Coronado and company set a $1.2 million fire at Michigan State University and made away with research records. Two students, working late in the building, escaped unharmed.

After the blaze, Coronado, posing as "Leonard Robideau," sent a Federal Express package to a Maryland activist with PETA. But the FedEx account number had expired. The package, turned over to the FBI, contained a videotape of the raid on Michigan State. Agents searched the Maryland activist's home and seized surveillance logs, code names and false identification for Coronado and another activist. They also found two-way radios, night-vision goggles and animal euthanasia drugs.

"We had the FBI all the way through our underwear drawers," said Ingrid Newkirk, PETA's co-founder.

Investigators raided a storage locker that Coronado kept in Talent, Ore. They seized a typewriter ribbon and reconstructed a letter in which Coronado sought money for an arson campaign against the fur industry. As federal authorities closed in on Coronado in October 1992, he and his associates set fire to a Utah State University research station in Millville. That same night, Coronado associates struck a government coyote-research facility in nearby Logan, Utah, and hurled a flaming torch through the window of a USDA supply depot in Pocatello, Idaho.

In early 1993, a federal judge in Spokane sent four of Coronado's friends to jail for refusing to testify against him. One was Jonathan Paul, who turned down an offer of immunity rather than testify against his best friend. Paul's sister, "Baywatch" TV star Alexandra Paul, marched beneath his jail cell shouting, "Free Jonathan Paul," and their story appeared in People magazine. Jonathan Paul served five months for contempt.

Coronado, captured in Arizona in 1994, drew a 57-month sentence. He became a popular inmate at the federal penitentiary in Tucson, trading the meat entrees from his chow-hall plates for vegetables. His movement martyred him a "prisoner of war."

The arsonist has never identified his accomplices and says he believes they never would have told on him had circumstances been reversed.

Coronado moved in March to Eugene, where he helped to edit the Earth First! journal but, still on probation, lived in a community corrections facility. A few months ago, still wearing an electronic monitoring anklet, Coronado moved to Applegate Valley, just up the road from his friend Jonathan Paul. In August, Coronado returned to Tucson to work as the student-affairs manager of a public charter school attended by Yaqui and Tohono tribal children.

During Coronado's incarceration, Paul maintained a high profile. He was arrested in 1997 demonstrating at the University of California at Davis, where activists were celebrating the loth anniversary of the $3.5 million arson of the school's veterinary diagnostic laboratory.

There, Paul shared a jail cell with a young activist who would soon raise his own profile among the West's extremists: Portland's Craig Rosebraugh.

Eleven weeks later, Rosebraugh delivered his first message on behalf of the Animal Liberation Front: a $300,000 mink release on Rick Arritola's ranch at Mount Angel.

There is no estimate from authorities or the activists themselves of how many people have committed eco-terrorism.

But it continues. On Mother's Day in Eugene, ALF took credit for torching Childers Meat Co., which cuts and packs meat into portions for institutional use.

The latest known group to enter the terror business is an unlikely crew: a parents' dream team of young men who profess a vegan diet and a commitment to no drugs, no alcohol or tobacco, and no premarital sex. They were the core members of Salt Lake City's "Straight Edge," a crowd driven by hard-core rock bands such as Minor Threat and Earth Crisis. But a few veered from the group's original message of tolerance, health and personal pride and, as anyone can, declared themselves agents of the Animal Liberation Front.

On March 11, 1997, several Straight Edgers drove to the Utah Fur Breeders Agricultural Cooperative in Sandy, which provides food for the state's $20 million-a-year mink industry, and planted five pipe bombs in trucks and an office, lighting hobby-shop fuses. Explosions blew shrapnel 800 feet as the co-op burst into flames. Two families living on the premises escaped without injury.

Hours after the bombing, Dallas antifur activist J.P. Goodwin announced that it was the work of the ALF. But two of the Straight Edgers accused of taking part informed on the others. The informants were convicted, one going to prison and the other awaiting sentencing; one of their associates committed suicide, and three others were acquitted.

The new crowd's habits worry experienced saboteurs. Paul, citing generational differences, says he threw up his hands in frustration after traveling to Salt Lake to unsuccessfully coach Straight Edgers on the necessity of loyalty - and a willingness to do time if that's the price of silence.

The Straight Edgers' level of violence exceeded that of hard-core saboteurs such as Coronado, who strongly supports arson as a form of property destruction against animal researchers, fur farmers and others whom he accuses of exploiting animals.

Paul advocates arson as long as it doesn't hurt people. And he opposes the use of bombs as excessively dangerous: "I'm not interested in seeing people killed."

Michelle Arciaga, an official with the National Law Institute and an expert on Straight Edge, concluded: "It's just luck, dumb luck, that has kept them from killing someone."

Craig Rosebraugh's musty Portland office is a gathering place for militant animal rightists, radical environmentalists and human-rights activists of varying ages. And Rosebraugh is the person they tend to gather around.

"I think I'm a good bridge between some of the more experienced, older activists and a lot of the newer folks coming on board," he said in a recent interview.

His professional elders, some of them off doing other things, would probably approve.

Dave Foreman lives in Albuquerque, N.M., where he is chairman of The Wildlands Project and a past national board member of the Sierra Club. Jonathan Paul, with whom Rosebraugh shared the jail cell, bought a house in Oregon's Applegate Valley in 1994 and became a leading anti-logging activist in the Siskiyou Mountains; he was arrested last spring while attempting to sabotage the Makah tribe's gray whale hunts at Neah Bay, Wash. David Barbarash was deported to Canada after his 1994 arrest near Paul's California home and this year was named ALF's North American spokesman.

Rosebraugh himself took a break recently from a 25-city protest of primate research centers to accept his diploma from Marylhurst University. This year he listed himself on the Internet as the official press officer of the Earth Liberation Front.

As the bridge between Coronado's generation and the youths now joining the ranks of eco-terrorists, Rosebraugh finds himself in the peculiar position of declaring himself nonviolent while supporting bombings, so long as no one is hurt.

So far, it seems, he's succeeded at the task he set for himself

Next. How eco-terrorist acts have changed America's ways

You can reach Bryan Denson at 503-294-7614 or by e-mail at

You can reach James Long at 503-221 - 4351 or by e-mail at

Brian Hendrickson of The Oregonian's computer services department built databases for this series. Head librarian Sandra Macomber, assistant head librarian Gail Hulden and researchers Lovelle Svart, Margie Gultry and Kathleen Blythe also contributed.

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