Environmental Terrorism


Chances are that it was just a prank. But someone had to go to considerable effort to lower himself onto the 312-foot-high face of O’Shaughnessy Dam in the Yosemite high country and paint a jagged 40-foot crack on the concrete. Alongside was the legend, “Free the Rivers!--J. Muir”--a reference to the early naturalist who fought the construction of the dam to impound water for the city of San Francisco.

One official guessed that the vandalism was the work of Earth First!, a group that conducts guerrilla warfare against those it views as enemies of the environment. Perhaps Earth First! was not responsible, but it is logical for Earth First! to come to mind. The group openly advocates the sabotaging of logging and other development in alleged defense of the environment.

One particularly vicious tactic is tree-spiking--the burying of giant nails in trees to be logged. Earth First! members claim that they would not spike trees without warning--like spray-painting the tree. There was no such warning for a mill worker in Mendocino County recently. A log was being run through a large band saw when the saw struck an 11-inch spike. The saw blade flew off its track and severely injured the mill worker.


Earth First! officials refused to claim responsibility, and one suggested that the spike was fixed by campers setting up a hammock. An 11-inch spike for a hammock? Hardly.

Regardless of the source, spiking trees is a despicable act. Conducting terrorism and sabotage in the name of the environment is a criminal perversion. John Muir would be sickened and shamed by the idea. As for O’Shaughnessy Dam, many environmentalists dream of the day when the dam might no longer flood Hetch Hetchy Valley and the Tuolumne River might run free again. But they would never dream of engaging in violence to see it happen.