New York Times Mag Chronicles the Fiery Rise and Fall of Oregon’s Most Destructive Eco-Saboteurs

Holiday weekend reading: the case of the Earth Liberation Front, a cell of hard-line activists based in Eugene who burned down a ski resort and a Chevy dealership.

Fires destroyed old-growth forests. Police deployed tear gas on furious anarchists. And idealistic kids began to wonder if marching was enough to save the planet.

As The New York Times Magazine notes in a feature, the Oregon environmental movement 25 years ago was in a moment not so different from where it is today.

Except for the 675 billion metric tons of carbon belched into the skies. And the 18 people indicted on eco-terrorism charges.

A piece in the magazine this Sunday considers the case of the Earth Liberation Front, a cell of hard-line activists based in Eugene who burned down a horse rendering plant, a ski resort and a Chevrolet dealership before infighting and an FBI informant brought it down. The story is timed to the upcoming sentencing of Joseph Dibee in a Portland federal courtroom, after his recent conviction for arson.

“This summer in Oregon, Dibee will be sentenced by Judge Ann Aiken,” writes Matthew Wolfe. “The prosecution is recommending a sentence of more than seven years, as well as a yet-to-be-determined amount of financial restitution. When Dibee and his lawyers plead for leniency, Aiken may hear some of the largely forgotten history of the ELF — how a small group of activists, fueled by idealism and rage, brought the entire weight of the federal government down upon themselves, severely curtailing what remained of the radical environmental movement in this country.”

The story of ELF is required reading for any Oregonian who wants to understand the state’s volatile admixture of activism, policing, logging and wilderness. This story is a great start—and if the holiday-weekend read piques your interest, consider the 2011 documentary If a Tree Falls for more ELF tales.