When Radical Becomes Terrorist: Law Enforcement and Eco-Sabotage

  • Kirsten Christiansen

Early on the morning of Monday, October 19, 1998, seven fires broke out at a ski lodge on Vail Mountain in Colorado. By the time the fires were put out, three buildings were destroyed, including Ski Patrol Headquarters and Two Elk Restaurant and Lodge, and four chairlifts were damaged; total damage was estimated at $12 million. Within days of the fires, a shadowy group called the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) claimed responsibility in a letter to local media outlets (Glick, 2001). The ELF stated that the arson was designed to stop Vail Associates, just beginning an 885-acre expansion, from ruining “the nation’s last threatened Lynx habitat.” At the time, this incident represented the largest and most damaging attack ever committed in the name of environmental protection in the United States and was considered by many to be proof that radical environmental groups were escalating the level of violence in their attacks (Paulson, 1998). This chapter will analyze the threats posed by groups referred to as eco-terrorists and the law enforcement action and/or inaction response toward their activities, including the problems with legal definitions and thus proper enforcement or lack of enforcement of the relevant laws.


Hate Crime Civil Disobedience Legal Definition Environmental Movement Interagency Cooperation 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Graduate Center, John Jay College of Criminal JusticeCity University of New YorkNew YorkUSA

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