The last ten years of ecological organizing under the Earth First! banner saw a significant shift in movement focus. Where defending old growth forests had taken center stage for much of the 90′s and early 2000′s, the fight against resource extraction became a defining characteristic of the last decade. What follows is a timeline highlighting Earth First! (EF!) participation in what has been referred to by some as the climate movement.
While EF! has never succumbed to the narrow fixation on counting carbon molecules as a strategy to save the planet, it has certainly played a role in shaping the so-called “climate movement” and inspiring the flurry of climate-centered organizing, particularly across the US and the UK.
We offer this retrospective as a reflection on movement evolution, a celebration of some amazing victories, and for any new-comers to EF!, an action packed introduction.
For those unfamiliar with EF!, it is a decentralized, non-hierarchical movement. Most EF! groups are small numbers of individuals who organize and act as they see fit. While EF! has never explicitly been an anarchist movement, its structure could easily be described as anarchistic.
The EF! movement recognizes anyone who believes in deep ecology, direct action and a no compromise strategy, and chooses to identify themselves as an Earth First!er. As such, we make no pretenses that this is a comprehensive timeline of EF! actions.
Without further ado…
Ten years ago, the legendary forest defense campaigns of the Pacific Northwest were in full effect, including the six-year long Fall Creek canopy occupation in Oregon declaring victory (remaining uncut to this day) and the formation of TWAC (Trans’ and/or Women’s Action Camp) at Straw Devil. This forest defense movement led by EF!ers pioneered blockade tactics which would become central to groups like Tar Sands Blockade in Texas. This Portland IMC post from November 2003 gives a glimpse of how much was going on at the time.
- Also in Nov 2003, activists organized to confront the FTAA Summit in Miami as part of the broad based global justice movement, which laid the foundation for the climate justice movement to come. Earth First! organizers played key roles in providing direct action trainings and mobilization infrastructure (as they had also done in previous global justice protests in Seattle, DC, and abroad.) Check out Miami Model film about the FTAA.
- In July 2004, EF! took action against Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) terminals in Maine, trashing the Governor’s mansion and blockading his driveway! Six were arrested, but the pressure was on and LNG plans off the coast were defeated soon after.
- Throughout the summer and spring of 2005, EF!ers executed direct actions in the areas proposed for massive logging plans in the aftermath of the 2002 Biscuit Fire of southern Oregon. This campaign sparked national dialogue about post-fire ecology and industry’s drive to exploit catastrophic weather events. Lessons from the Biscuit Fire in relation to climate change, land use policy and the increase of future fires is a topic which is still being studied by ecologists today.
- Feb 2006, EF! organizers attended their annual US winter gathering, where the Earth First! Climate Caucus was formed. [Read their founding statement here.] By May of 2006, the EF! Climate Caucus had become Rising Tide North America, and announced a call to action targeting the coming G8 Summit with “climate justice”-focused direct action. They immediately garnered the attention of major security firms like StratFor, as evidenced in this article. In the years to come, RTNA often collaborated with EF! organizers on various relevant actions.
- That summer, July 2006, EF! And RTNA manifested their hope to see a climate focus at the Summer Rendezvous by collaborating on the epic and infamous coal plant blockade in Carbo, VA.
- In 2007, many EF!ers focused on opposing the construction of I-69, a NAFTA Superhighway for transnational carbon-spewing truck traffic to tear up forests and farm land across southern Indiana. That July, following the EF! Rendezvous, “Hayduke’s Moving Company” staged mock evictions, dumping the contents out of I-69 planning offices and into the street in Petersburg and Oakland City, and activists shut down the I-69 planning office in Bloomington. By the following year, EF! was camped out along the route with a full time treesit blockade in the way of construction. This was one among dozens of direct actions against the road.
In Feb 2008, EF!ers in the Everglades blockaded a hotly-contended FPL construction site where the largest fossil fuel power plant in the US was being built. Twenty-six were arrested, and most all went to trial using the “necessity defense,” bringing experts—including a climatologist and hydrologist—to testify about the regional and global threats. This direct action campaign against FPL continued into the following year with several blockades and disruptions, including an encampment resulting from a stand-off over public access to an imperiled old-growth swamp which FPL claimed to own.
In July 2008, EF! again ended their annual summer gathering by taking over the corporate office of AMP Ohio, a company proposing a new coal plant in Meigs County.
- In 2008 we saw the beginning of “Treetopia,” a treetop occupation in ancient redwoods near Eureka, CA that won a victory in the summer of 2012
- In July 2009, EF! forest defenders in the Pacific Northwest gave a boost to the forest protection movement with a massive blockade in the Elliot State Forest of Oregon (check out the sweet video in this link). Blockaders made explicit connections between the need for intact forests and a stabilizing the climate.
- August 2009 and again in January 2010, members of Climate Ground Zero (founded by EF! co-founder Mike Roselle) treesit to halt blasting on a mountain top removal site in West Virginia and physically stop the permanent destruction of mountains.
In July 2010, EF! pushed the envelope by taking direct action against big wind energy plans in Maine. The turbines were being located in endangered species habitat of the Canada lynx, and they were being built by none other than TransCanada (of Keystone XL fame) as an attempt to greenwash their tar sands operations.
- In Feb 2011, EF! activists made the climate-forest connection again, this time in Florida, where nearly 700 acres of pine flatwoods and wetlands (some of the most productive carbon-storing ecosystems) were slated to be bulldozed for a massive biotech research complex. A six-week canopy occupation in Briger forest brought attention to the plans and, thanks to EF! activists, the forest is still standing today.
- In July 2011, EF! challenged TransCanada from another angle—one people are a bit more familiar with now. In response to a pipeline spill in the Yellowstone River and the Montana Governor endorsing the Keystone XL pipeline, folks occupied the Capitol building in Helena, MT. (Once again, check out the sweet video.)Also in July 2011 RAMPS (formed by former Climate Ground Zero members) halts mountain-top-removal coal mining via treesits in West Virginia once again
- In June of 2012 EF!ers hold a barricade in Jersey Shore, PA against AquaAmerica, who evicted residents to place a frack-water withdrawal facility on the Susquehanna river. The blockade is ultimately evicted but the fight galvanized regional opposition to fracking.
After the annual summer rendezvous in July 2012, EF!ers blockaded a road into a fracking site in the Moshannon State Forest of Pennsylvania. This was the first action to shut down operations on an active fracking site in the US. (Yet, again, sweet video.)
- Through 2012 and into 2013 , EF!ers including the Earth First! Climber’s Guild helped get Tar Sands Blockade literally “off the ground,” providing training and people to build and occupy multiple aerial blockades in Texas and numerous lockdowns (video link).
- In January 2013 the International Treaty to Protect the Sacred from Tar Sands is signed by traditional indigenous societies and later ratified by Oglala Sioux and Northern Cheyenne governments. It is also signed by environmental groups and EF!ers (video link)
- Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance forms in Oklahoma, with help from EF! organizers, and continues a campaign of attrition with 11 lockdowns in 2013 10 of which are on the KXL construction sites. In the most recent action two Oklahomans are being charged with terrorism hoax for their Hunger Games-themed banner (inspired by the Earth First! Journal’s 2013 film fest logo!)
- In February 2013, following the Winter OC/Rondy, EF!ers shut down operations at GreenHunter waste water storage site (video link.). A crucial link in the life-cycle of resource extraction in high volume slick water horizontal hydraulic fracture drilling, GreenHunter has been applying for permits to barge their radioactive filth down the Ohio River. Due to this and other direct actions and mounting public pressure the Ohio legislature has a bill to ban injection wells.
In July 2013 EF!ers upped the ante on fracking opposition by blockading a company responsible for producing frack proppants in North Carolina, while simultaneously releasing hundreds of addresses for similar secondary target locations internationally.
- Throughout 2013 resistance against tar sands infrastructure including Petcoke storage and pipe constructions kicks off in Michigan.
- In Oct 2013, Marcellus EF! Loyalsock Forest treesit in PA went into three weeks of occupying a site planned for an Andarko fracking operation. The operation is now on hold indefinitely (video).
As this article is written, protests against tar sands megaload shipments in Eastern Oregon and Idaho by RTNA and the EF!ers of Cascadia Forest Defenders blockade roads in protest of refining equipment’s transport…
While the anti-extraction movement has gone global and is lead by dozens if not hundreds of localized resistance efforts, the Earth First! Newswire has been providing some of the most widespread and consistent coverage of this effort since 2010, including deep analysis and movement strategy discussions.
This February, join us in the Everglades for a week of camping, sharing, learning, face to face discussions and action at the annual EF! Organizer’s Conference and Winter Rendezvous. We also extend the invitation add more events to this timeline throughout the week.
And this summer, EF! returns to Southern Cascadia
On that note, we could use your support in keeping the heat on. You can support the Earth First! movement by donating to the Earth First! Journal here. Thanks to all who have supported us in the past.
We look forward to seeing you in the struggle!
For the wild,
– Earth First! Journal Collective