original ELF initiated its first action on March 16, 1977 in Watsonville, Santa Cruz County, California. Subsequent
guerrilla attacks in northern California and Oregon were mounted that year
by the May Day Ecommando Unit and the Rachel
Carson Ecommando Unit. On November 22, 1977,
John Hanna, the founder of
ELF, was arrested at his home in Santa Cruz by the local sheriff's SWAT team and federal agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco
and Firearms. A trial in federal court resulted in a five year sentence which was later modified to time served and
probation. Following the 1977 arrest, a period of self-criticism and introspection ensued. A dialogue with other
activists led to a consensus that terrorist actions were clearly counter-productive to the environmental movement - regardless
of the perceived righteousness of a given cause. The public will always reject violence and destructive actions. Although
the original ELF's attacks were later described as being "symbolic" and "guerrilla theater" the public's reaction was overwhelmingly negative.
Since ELF had strived to inform and inspire the people, this negative response served to end its activities. ELF disbanded
in 1978, having failed to achieve its objective.
One year later, Earth First! was founded. In the mid 1980's, there was written
communications between ELF founder, John
Hanna, and Earth First! founder, Dave Foreman
(see: Archives page).
At the time, the internet did not exist, so
information about the 1977 ELF
guerrilla actions circulated slowly within
the Earth First! membership. Today,
anonymous anecdotes found on the internet
suggest that the current version of ELF was
launched by an extremist Earth First! faction
in Great Britain in the early 1990's.
Whatever the origins, contemporary ELF
philosophies and tactics generally mirror
those expressed by the original ELF.
Unfortunately, the new incarnation of ELF,
Earth Liberation Front, makes no attempt to
"inform and inspire the people". The
actions employed are violent, intimidating
and counter-productive to the environmental
movement. It does not matter that
throughout its history, ELF actions have
never physically harmed a single person. The lessons of the past have
not been learned. Today's mainstream
environmentalists choose to distance
themselves from the new ELF for the same
reasons given thirty-seven years ago.
There is no tolerance for terrorism in the
environmental movement - never has been and
never will be. A terrorist and
environmentalist cannot live within the same
The following interview
took place in Greeley, Colorado just five days
before the September 11, 2001 terrorist
INTERVIEW WITH ELF FOUNDER,
Q: You've been out
of the spotlight for a number of years.
Why did you decide to give this interview?
A: I started hearing
about attacks and vandalism claimed by an
environmental group called E.L.F. Years
ago, I founded the ELF. Of course this
is a whole new entity but similar in its
purpose. I felt it might be useful to
make a statement at this time.
Q: On November 22,
1977, agents of the Alcohol, Tobacco and
Firearms arrested you at your home in Santa
Cruz, California. Can you describe the
circumstances leading to your arrest?
A: I was charged
with violation of federal statutes.
Specifically, I was accused of placing
incendiary devices on seven crop dusters at
the airport in Salinas, California on May 1,
1977. There were other charges as well
relating to my underground activities.
Q: What prompted you
to take that course of action?
A: At the time, I
was frustrated. I chose to go
underground and employ guerrilla tactics in
defense of the earth. I felt
conventional methods of civil disobedience
were ineffective. I was upset because
pesticide use and cancer rates were
increasing in spite of the best efforts of
the concerned scientific community to point
out the hazards and alternatives to
Q: To whom are you
A: Two people
influenced me: One was Rachel Carson and her
book Silent Spring. The other was
Robert Van Den Bosch, professor of entomology
at U.C. Berkeley. He wrote a book
titled The Pesticide Conspiracy. He
died shortly after the book was published.
To continue with interview, click