The Wild World of Wolves
Waging War Over Wolves
American Farm Bureau Federation received threats from eco-terrorists
Environmentalists long have been battling with the Farm Bureau about the reintroduction of gray wolves into Yellowstone Park, but unnamed ecoterrorists now are threatening violence.
When ecoterrorists set fire to the Vail ski resort recently, Dave Conover of the American Farm Bureau Federation couldn't help wonder if his organization was next. Since July, the bureau has received at least eight threats to bomb its two-story national headquarters building in suburban Chicago. Behind the letters and phone calls is an unnamed individual or a group of environmental radicals who want the bureau to drop its court challenge to the wolf-recovery program at Yellowstone National Park.
Sparring with the green movement is nothing new for the Farm Bureau, but the threats are "a little scary" says Conover, federation administrator. One letter mentioned top executives by name, while another included a drawing of a limp body -- identified as "Farm Bureau" -- nailed upside-down to a wall. "The implication was death" says Conover. "To be real honest, it was shocking to get something like that."
The bureau has responded by notifying the FBI and enacting basic security measures. Packages no longer may be left at the front desk and only one door is opened during business hours. The threats could be a hoax, but ecoterrorism expert Ron Arnold believes they fit the profile of radical groups such as the Animal Liberation Front, or ALF, and Earth Liberation Front, or ELF.
"The Farm Bureau should take it seriously," says Arnold, author of EcoTerror: The Violent Agenda to Save Nature. "This looks like the terrorists are serious because it's over the wolf issue, and that puts ALF into play." The use of explosives is rare but not unheard of in ecoterrorism. In March 1997, seven ALF activists were arrested after detonating six pipe bombs at a fur-breeding facility in Salt Lake City, destroying several trucks and trailers.
Farm Bureau officials are worried by the parallels to the Vail case. Terrorists with ELF set fire to Vail mountain Oct. 9, shortly after the resort won final approval for an 885-acre expansion that environmentalists said would interfere with critical lynx habitat. "When I heard about Vail, it was of very great concern to us because it was also endangered-species related," says Conover.
The Farm Bureau has been battling with environmentalists over the endangered Canadian gray wolf. Last December, the bureau won a victory when a federal judge ordered the removal of wolves introduced into the United States from Canada. (The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had flown wolves from Canada to Yellowstone by helicopter in 1995 and 1996 as part of an effort to reestablish their numbers in the Rocky Mountains.) Ed Bangs, project leader of the Fish and Wildlife Service, said after the court order that the wolves may have to be shot if Canada won't take them back.
Although environmentalists immediately appealed the ruling, the Farm Bureau didn't receive any threats until seven months later -- following a national ad campaign run last spring by Defenders of Wildlife. Full-page ads in major newspapers on both coasts and in Chicago, emblazoned with the message "Don't Let Them Kill the Yellowstone Wolves" accused the Farm Bureau of moving to destroy 150 wolves. The ad urged supporters to put pressure on the Farm Bureau to "drop its lawsuit against the Yellowstone wolves."
Hank Fischer, Northern Rockies representative of Defenders of Wildlife, condemned the threats. "I guarantee we haven't been exhorting anyone to bomb the Farm Bureau, although we certainly have strong disagreements with them over the wolf reintroduction," says Fischer. "I think what happened at Vail was horribly wrong."
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