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EcoWars: A matter of values

November 5, 1998
Web posted at: 6:05 PM EDT

From CNN Correspondent Don Knapp

CNN's Don Knapp reports on the battle over environmental issues
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HUMBOLDT COUNTY, California (CNN) -- The environment has become a battle ground in a war of values. Some recent clashes indicate the battle is escalating.

A group calling itself the Earth Liberation Front claimed responsibility for a series of arson fires last month that caused $12 million damage to a Vail, Colorado, ski resort. The group said they acted to protect the habitat of the Canada Lynx.

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This and other recent clashes over the environment seem to be driving opponents farther apart, polarizing communities on whose ground the battles are being waged.

In Washington state, Makah Indians confronted anti-whaling protesters. Tensions escalated when the protesters came ashore onto Indian land. There was a scuffle: One protester ended up in the water, and four others were arrested on trespassing charges.

Near Eureka, California, another fight took place in the decades-old war over logging old-growth redwoods. Activists show a video of a confrontation between protesters and loggers; they say it shows loggers making threats. And later, one activist was killed by a falling tree.

The incident is under investigation.

Tension simmers in communities where people feel forced to choose between environmental protection and a host of other values ranging from job growth to cultural traditions.

At the Saturday farmer's market in Arcata, California, an environmentalist and a log truck driver share their feelings.

"I believe there are people out there who want to scare these freaky people out of the woods, and no matter how much violence is used, or other tactics, they aren't leaving," says an anti-logging activist.

The logger replies, "See what they're talking about? They're not going to give up."

A half-hour away, a group of anti-logging activists set up a base camp at a public park to support their continuing protests. The presence of the environmentalists is evidence of their commitment.

Josh Brown, a member of Earth First, says the environmental movement is full of dedicated people.

"I've seen people drop out of school, quit their jobs, put their families on hold to come here, put their bodies on the line to protect the ancient redwoods. And it's a calling."

Feelings run deep on all sides of this debate. The opponents here say they've given all they intend to give ... an attitude that makes polarization more likely than compromise.

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