The most active environmental extremist movement in the United States has claimed responsibility for an arson in Hagerstown, Maryland.
On November 19, 2005, four unoccupied homes in a new development were damaged by fire, causing an estimated $300,000 in damages. The Earth Liberation Front (ELF) claimed responsibility for the fires in an e-mail to the Herald-Mail newspaper. According to the e-mail, the fires were set to “strike at the bottom line” of one of the developers, and to “warn all developers that the people of the Earth are prepared to defend what remains of the wild and the green.”
Investigators with the FBI and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms are pursuing a number of leads, according to Hagerstown Fire Department Chief Gary R. Hawbaker.
ELF first made national headlines in 1998 when it claimed responsibility for the ski resort arson in Vail, Colorado, which caused $12 million in damages - the costliest act of ecoterrorism in American history at the time. Since the Vail arson, hundreds of crimes have been committed in the name of environmental protection nationwide. The most damaging occurred on August 1, 2003, when arsonists burned down a housing complex under construction in San Diego, destroying a five-story building and 100-foot-high crane; losses were estimated at $50 million.
These arsons typify, in an especially destructive way, ELF’s ongoing battle against “urban sprawl,” which it views as a wasteful and unnecessary encroachment on natural habitats.