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Hunting Tre Arrow: The Flight of America's Most Wanted Eco-Terrorist

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After the first climber returned to the ground, another one came up after Tre. This time, Tre noticed that one of the sheriff's deputies was aiming a rifle at him.

The standoff would last nearly forty-eight hours. Through both of the long nights he stayed in the tree, the loggers and deputies sounded sirens, blasted music, revved chain saws and strobed Tre's face with generator-fired floodlights. Finally, at about 2 A.M. on Saturday, October 6th, Tre lost his grip and plummeted from the tree. "He passed out from complete exhaustion after hour upon hour of nonstop harassment," says Rolf Skar.

Forestry officials admitted that the only thing that prevented Tre's death was the pile of cut tree limbs he fell into. As it was, he barely survived; he suffered a dislocated shoulder, torn ligaments in his knee, several fractures to his pelvis, a broken rib that collapsed one lung and a concussion so severe that his brain bled for several days. Before driving him to the hospital, sheriff's deputies charged Tre with criminal trespass, interfering with police and interfering with an agricultural operation. "I am totally confident we did the right thing," Clatsop County Sheriff John Raichl told The Oregonian. But other locals hardly saw it that way. "We're shocked and embarrassed that our local authorities caused all this to happen," a store owner said. A concerned Gov. Kitzhaber ordered a review of what state employees had done at Acey Line. The logging crews in God's Valley continued to cut trees during Tre's convalescence, but the Cascadians knew they were on the brink of victory in the more important battle along Eagle Creek. What they didn't want to talk about, though, was the arson attack that had helped put them there.


Part IV: Paranoia

It had been clear for at least a couple of years that the success or failure of the forces aligned against one another at Eagle Creek would define the struggle for Northwest forests. The Cascadia Forest Alliance agreed with the U.S. Forest Service that Eagle Creek was probably as well planned as any timber sale in the agency's history. No old-growth timber was targeted; trees would be thinned rather than clear-cut; little, if any, road building would be required; and the endangered species with the highest profile, the spotted owl, would not be affected. "It probably is the best they can do," conceded Cascadia spokesman Donald Fontenot. "But guess what? That's not good enough.... Nothing short of ending logging on public lands is good enough."

The first real battle between a new breed of environmental activists and the timber industry had been staged a hundred miles south, at Warner Creek. The Cascadia Forest Alliance, in fact, had organized within the walls of the "fort" (complete with drawbridge and tower) that activists had used to block the Warner Creek road for eleven months. The Warner Creek campaign was both a demonstration of how effective the activists' tactics could be and a daunting demonstration of how determined the federal government had become to suppress forest activism. The timber auctions that had traditionally provided the only public forum for objecting to the sale of trees on public lands were transformed by federal agents into intelligence-gathering operations. "Forest Service officers started by videotaping the faces of who spoke at the auctions, then of everyone who attended the auctions," says Cascadia's Kim Marks. "Then they started going outside and videotaping everyone's license plate."

Paranoia among the activists escalated dramatically when an attorney in Eugene, Lauren Regan, obtained documents demonstrating that the federal government had used a convicted drug dealer to infiltrate forest activists and that this informant had been assigned to target people who had been identified as leaders of the Warner Creek campaign. Word of what Regan learned spread swiftly among alliance members. The belief that they were engaged in an ongoing struggle against their own government served only to drive the Cascadians deeper into the "security culture" they had adopted during the Warner Creek campaign. Fewer forest activists used their last names or talked about their family backgrounds. "You learn not to ask a lot of personal questions," Brian Schulv says, "and to be suspicious of people who do."

Secrecy and militancy tend to feed off each other, of course, and the Cascadia Forest Alliance appeared to become both more insular and more aggressive during the spring of 2001, as it prepared for another summer of protests at Eagle Creek.

Activists hurried to the woods on June 1st, when the first team of loggers showed up for the season, using their chain saws to clear undergrowth from the road that led to the logging site. After they left, twenty Cascadians locked arms, blocking the road and preventing the U.S. Forest Service from delivering the loader needed to clear the slash.

That small victory was overshadowed, though, by what had happened under cover of darkness twelve hours earlier and fifteen miles south in the town of Estacada, where three trucks belonging to Ray A. Schoppert Logging, the company contracted to work the Eagle Creek sale site, had been firebombed. The devices used were simple – milk jugs filled with Coleman lantern fuel – but effective, destroying one of the trucks and seriously damaging the two others.

"An attempt to discredit us," the Cascadia Forest Alliance called the Schoppert firebombing, but it soon was clear to everyone that this single act of violence had brought the Cascadians closer to their goal more than anything since Tre Arrow's ledge sit a year earlier. One after another, Oregon sawmills informed Vanport Manufacturing, the company holding the rights to the timber at Eagle Creek, that they were declining to purchase or process any logs that came from the disputed site.

During the next few months, the Eagle Creek sale fell apart completely, and Vanport pulled out of its deal with the Forest Service. Forest activists scoring victories over logging, read The Oregonian headline on the story that reported the company's change of heart.

The subject of the Eagle Creek timber sale all but disappeared from papers until one year later, in August 2002, when the U.S. Attorney's office in Portland announced that an investigation by the FBI's Joint Terrorist Task Force had resulted in a grand jury indictment against four persons accused of the firebombing at Schoppert Logging and that one of them was Michael James Scarpitti, a.k.a. Tre Arrow.

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