Radical Environmentalist on Death Row



The government drops bombs on kids in the Middle East, while a hand full of activists torch some yuppie ski resort in Colorado: Bush gets reelected and the radical environmentalists are issued warrants.

Where the hell is the justice?

On Friday January 20, eleven environmentalists accused of acting on behalf of the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) and the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), were named in a 65-count Federal indictment that included numerous charges of arson and destruction of an energy facility. The events described in the indictments took place in Oregon, Washington, Wyoming, California and Colorado. The FBI had infiltrated them.

“The indictment tells a story of four-and-a-half years of arson, vandalism, violence and destruction claimed to have been executed on behalf of the Animal Liberation Front and the Earth Liberation Front — extremist movements known to support acts of domestic terrorism,” Attorney General Alberto said in a news conference.

There you have it: Environmentalists willing to embrace such direct action tactics to combat the destruction of the wild are now labeled domestic terrorists by the US government, even though no humans were targeted or injured in any of the aforementioned arsons. There were only economic casualties covered in ash, ranging upwards of $100 million according to the Justice Department.

One could argue the strength of such illegal direct action. Maybe it’s effective. Maybe it’s not. But according to those who defend such acts, it’s all about confronting violence with violence while inflicting as much economic damage as one can along the way. Such goals, as loose as they may be (ELF doesn’t have any formal organization), have helped propel the obscure group up to numero uno on the domestic terror list here in the US.

The most notorious of the suspected eco-terrorists, Tre Arrow, formerly Michael James Scarpitti, currently resides in a Vancouver Island Correction Center in Canada where he is fighting extradition to the United States. Tre stands accused of orchestrating two arson attacks that took place in Oregon in 2001 — one involving a cement mixer and another concerning the firebombing of two logging vehicles. Arrow claims he is innocent on both counts.

In an interview with Portland, Oregon’s weekly alternative, Willamette Week, in January 2005, Tre was asked if he had ever been involved with the ELF, to which he responded:

“I emphatically express that I am not involved in the ELF and never have been. And at the same time, I don’t condemn the activists that are involved in the ELF for the actions they engage in. … [People who know me] know I don’t burn anything. The ELF, it has its place. I recognize it does have an impact. It’s very telling that the FBI regards the ELF as a bigger threat than the white supremacist groups.”

I am not so certain Arrow is innocent of all the charges brought against him. I went to college with the three individuals who turned on Arrow, claiming the ex-Green Party candidate for US Congress (Arrow was only a slightly better candidate than David Cobb), was the brains behind the attack on logging equipment near Eagle Creek, Oregon in June, 2001. One of those activists, Jake Sherman, who is still in prison for the arson, worked side by side with me on the Ralph Nader for President campaign back in 2000.

I can say without a doubt that Jake would have done most anything Tre Arrow told him to. Like so many other dim-witted environmentalists in Oregon during the late 1990s, Sherman looked to Tre as a modern day prophet. But Tre was no messiah — he was just a media hungry environmentalist who longed for the heat of the spotlight. Not too unlike Julia “Butterfly” Hill who made her nest for two years in that giant redwood in California.

Undoubtedly, Arrow has done some good. In July of 2000, the agile Tre scaled the wall of a U.S. Forest Service Regional Headquarters in downtown Portland, Oregon where he remained perched for 11 straight days in protest of the forest service sales that were taking place in Eagle Creek, which is home to several endangered species and provides drinking water for tens of thousands of Oregonians. Two years later the Forest Service cancelled the sale, saving almost 70% of the proposed cuts. Tre had helped cast Eagle Creek in the national news.

But is Tre Arrow still an eco-warrior? I am not convinced. Although he half-heartedly defends the actions of the ELF, he is quite careful to distance himself from their tactics. Like “Butterfly” did when she left her beloved Luna, Tre too descended from his lofty ledge on the Federal building straight into enviro sainthood. Rolling Stone Magazine later dubbed him an “Environmental Rock Star.” He received fan mail from all over the world. Radio interviews and indy-media praise. But Tre Arrow is no Mick Jagger. He’s now just one more touchy-feely green who taints the radical environmental movement with his spiritual longing to be one with nature. As if the face of a Grizzly Bear and the Grey Wolf weren’t enough to motive us. Now we have Tre Arrow’s mug shot to guide us onward.

There was a moment when Tre and others seemed to understand that environmentalism was more than petitioning, changing by-laws and running losing campaigns for Congress. He seemed to understand that in order to protect the wild, forest activists must be willing to take risks. Spike trees. Block logging roads and lie down for the cause. But as Tre proclaims his innocence, he has simultaneously turned his back on the spirit of Ed Abbey and Henry David Thoreau.

Tre could have been a martyr, defending such actions as a just retaliation to the destruction of nature. He could have told us all why he did what he did.

Let’s just hope one of the eleven activists recently named in the eco-sabotage ring do just such a thing. Then maybe, just maybe, I’d be willing to believe militant environmentalism isn’t yet dead.

JOSHUA FRANK is the author of Left Out!: How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush, just published by Common Courage Press. You can order a copy at a discounted through Josh’s blog at www.BrickBurner.org. Josh can be reached at BrickBurner@gmail.com.


JOSHUA FRANK is managing editor of CounterPunch. He is author of Left Out! How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush (Common Courage Press, 2005), and along with Jeffrey St. Clair, the editor of Red State Rebels: Tales of Grassroots Resistance in the Heartland and Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, both published by AK Press. He can be reached at brickburner@gmail.com. You can follow him on Twitter @brickburner

Weekend Edition
October 9-11, 2015
Andrew Levine
In Syria, Obama is Playing a Losing Game
Louis Proyect
The End of Academic Freedom in America: the Case of Steven Salaita
John Feffer
Mouths Wide Shut: Obama’s War on Whistleblowers
Conn Hallinan
Portugal: Europe’s Left Batting 1000
Brian Cloughley
Hospital Slaughter and the US/NATO Propaganda Machine
John Walsh
For Vietnam: Artemisinin From China, Agent Orange From America
Robert Fantina
Canadian Universities vs. Israeli Apartheid
Paul Craig Roberts
The Impulsiveness of US Power
Philippe Marlière
Class Struggle at Air France
Binoy Kampmark
Waiting in Vain for Moderation: Syria, Russia and Washington’s Problem
Paul Edwards
Empire of Disaster
Margaret Knapke
These Salvadoran Women Went to Prison for Suffering Miscarriages
Cesar Chelala
The Perverse Rise of Killer Robots
Halyna Mokrushyna
On Ukraine’s ‘Incorrect’ Past
Walter Brasch
Mass Murders are Good for Business
William Hadfield
Sophistry Rising: the Refugee Debate in Germany
Christopher Brauchli
Why the NRA Profits From Mass Shootings
Pete Dolack
There is Still Time to Defeat the Trans-Pacific Partnership
Andre Vltchek
Stop Millions of Western Immigrants!
Dave Lindorff
America’s Latest War Crime
Ann Garrison
Sankarist Spirit Resurges in Burkina Faso
Cesar Chelala
The Perverse Rise of Killer Robots
Franklin Lamb
Official Investigation Needed After Afghan Hospital Bombing
Linn Washington Jr.
Wrongs In Wine-Land
Charles R. Larson
Prelude to the Spanish Civil War: Eduard Mendoza’s “An Englishman in Madrid”
October 08, 2015
Michael Horton
Why is the US Aiding and Enabling Saudi Arabia’s Genocidal War in Yemen?
Ben Debney
Guns, Trump and Mental Illness
Pepe Escobar
The NATO-Russia Face Off in Syria
Yoav Litvin
Israeli Occupation for Dummies
Lawrence Davidson
Deep Poverty in America: the On-Going Tradition of Not Caring
Thomas Knapp
War Party’s New Line: Vladimir Putin is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things
Brandon Jordan
Sowing the Seeds of War in Uruguay
Binoy Kampmark
Imperilled by Unfree Trade: the TPP on Environment and Labor
John McMurtry
The Canadian Elections: Cover-Up and Steal (Again)
Anthony Papa
Coming Home: an Open Letter to 6,000 Soon-to-be-Released Drug War Prisoners From an Ex-Con
Ramzy Baroud
Listen to Syrians: The Media Jackals and the People’s Narrative
Norman Pollack
Heart of Darkness: A Two-Way Street
Gilbert Mercier
Will Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and Iraqi Shiite Militias Defeat ISIS in Syria and Iraq?
John Stanton
Vietnam 2.0 and California Dreamin’ in Ukraine
William John Cox
The Pornography of Hatred
October 07, 2015
Nancy Scheper-Hughes
Witness to a Troubled Saint-Making: Junipero Serra and the Theology of Failure
Luciana Bohne
The Double-Speak of American Civilian Humanitarianism
Joyce Nelson
TPP: Big Pharma’s Big Deal
Jonathan Cook
Israel Lights the Touchpaper at Al-Aqsa Again
Joseph Natoli
The Wreckage in Sight We Fail To See