POLSON, Mont. -- A U.S. Forest Service official told loggers Wednesday that some out-of-state environmental activists operating in Montana are terrorists trained in arson, vandalism and bomb-making.
"Here in Montana, we are starting to see people from out of state and people who have direct ties to the Earth Liberation Front, and that concerns us," said Bill Fox, of the agency's Northern Region office in Missoula.
Fox spoke Wednesday to members of the Montana Wood Products Association, gathered in Polson for their annual meeting.
Earlier this summer, ELF told officials at the Bitterroot National Forest that all salvage logging in burned areas must stop "or they will take direct action," Fox said. ELF also distributes a training manual on fire-bombing and tree-spiking, he said.
"These people play hardball," Fox said.
Fox said the Forest Service has seen strong changes in the protesters that appear at timber sales.
"In the early days, they were primarily college students from Missoula and the University of Idaho," he said. "And they were primarily engaged in civil disobedience. There was no real violence and no real vandalism."
But as time went on, things started to change, Fox said.
"A different group of people started to show up," he said. "These people were better organized and better trained. They had laptops and cell phones. There was a lot more organization and sophistication."
Increasingly, there is violence, or the threat of violence at environmental protests, Fox said. Law enforcement agencies are collecting and sharing information about potential eco-terrorists, and loggers should do the same, he said.
"You need to be your own advocates," Fox said. "We do a lot, but we cannot do it all."