"Oh boy...oh boy...oh boy," Earth First! founder Dave Foreman groaned as SFR explained over the phone the story
running in this week's print edition. A Santa Fe woman was busted by the Feds last summer, eight years after she engaged in an Earth Liberation Front act of vandalism. Foreman had similar experiences back when he was monkey wrenching, but is currently heading up the Albuquerque-based Rewilding Institute
, which I'll let him explain in his own words in this full transcript of our interview:
Could you talk to me for a few minutes about the way things were in back, say, 2000 or so?
Well, I haven't been involved with Earth First! since about 1989. I was only involved during the 1980s and I left then because I didn't like the direction it was going, becoming less of a conservation group and more sort of part of the international, anarchist, animal-rights movement.
To follow that, how have you reacted over the years to seeing things tied Earth First! that have been characterized as terrorism? How does that make you feel?
I think it's unfortunate because Earth First! in the old days was a far more complex group and did a lot of different things and was a real conservation group. One good example is that we pushed to protect all US Forest Service road-less areas and we were the only group doing that in 1980. But, by 2000, President Bill Clinton and the chief of the Forest Service came around to that position and so that's an example of the kinds of things that Earth First! was doing back then.
And certainly there was also civil disobedience and some monkey-wrenching, but my views on monkey-wrenching were more pulling up survey stakes. I always encouraged anybody thinking of that stuff to stay away from fire and that sort of thing because that's a whole 'nother level. I find it unfortunate that it seems what happens is that young people have gotten caught up in the spirit of things and they go off and do some things without really thinking it through and the people they're with turn out to be not that trustworthy and when they're caught and they're faced with a bad sentence they rat on all their friends and their friends up getting worse sentences.
That does seem to be the case here.
There was a case I saw recently where a poor woman's ex-husband turned [state's evidence] and he ended up with nine years for some arson, but she's getting 20 or something. It's just very, very sad. The problem is doing things without thinking them through, without a real strategy, without asking questions about whether it's going to accomplish something. It's generally well-meaning young folks who really want to do something, but they don't think it through. I'm just very sorry for the way it's gone there.
What is it that you're into now? Tell me about the Rewilding Institute.
Take a look at our web site, Rewilding.org
. 'Rewilding' is basically helping the wilderness and wildlife conservation movement evolve with the influence of the science of conservation biology and saying we need to look at large landscapes, even on the continental level, to do real conservation. Rewilding is based on recent research that shows the importance of large carnivores, such as wolves or mountain lions. When large carnivores are lost from a ecosystem, the ecosystem begins to unravel. Yellowstone National Park is a great example. So, the Rewilding Institute works a lot on supporting the recovery of large carnivores, such as the Mexican wolf. We just recently put out a brochure on a North American continental vision for wolf recovery.
What do you make of the Obama administration?
Well, things are going to be better with the new administration. But the danger of the new administration is that it's going to be far to from perfect, that when you're confronted with an out-and-out enemy, like Bush-Cheney, people are prepared for that. But when you get somebody who is supposedly a friend, like Obama, we sort of sit back on our hands and think that things are going to be fine. President Obama, good as he is on somethings, doesn't understand conservation. He has never been involved in it. The Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar, who's been good on somethings has not been good on other things, particularly wolves and endangered species. So, conservationists have to be really tough in continuing to deal with the federal agencies and the Obama administration on those kind of issues.
What is the most pressing issue you think is coming up?
The most pressing issue is that we're causing a mass extinction right now. Climate change is one part of that. It is all based on us really overshooting the carrying capacity of earth and it gets back to human overpopulation.