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When activism goes too far

Oregon editors say

If he's guilty, Michael Scarpitti has damaged the environmental cause

The (Pendleton) East Oregonian

Environmentalists get a bad rap in conservative Eastern Oregon, where the mere mention of that word sends loggers and ranchers scurrying for the safety of their nearest congressional delegate. But rural America would be far worse off without the checks and balances brought by both sides, whether they be Republican and Democrat or environmentalist and industrialist.

Without environmental activists, the nation's timber companies, ranchers and miners would go unchecked as they consume the nation's natural resources. The mere presence of these activists ensures industry will operate with at least one eye trained on conservation.

But while industry can rape the environment, environmentalists are just as likely to go too far. When they do, they cheapen their role as the protectors of Mother Earth.

A case in point is Michael Scarpitti, better known as Tre Arrow, who become well known to Oregonians when he spent 11 days living on a ledge of the U.S. Forest Service headquarters in downtown Portland, protesting federal timber policies. In the fall of 2001, he fell 60 feet out of a hemlock while protesting a timber sale in the Tillamook State Forest, breaking his pelvis and winding up in the hospital.

His antics raised awareness and elevated his status to that of an icon for environmental activism. Then he apparently went too far.

Scarpitti was on the FBI's most-wanted list until his arrest last week in Canada. He's charged in a June 2001 arson of logging trucks in Estacada. The FBI has accused Scarpitti of starting fires at Ross Island Sand and Gravel in April 2001, causing &

36;200,000 in damage. Scarpitti has had connections with the Earth Liberation Front, a loose organization of activists that the FBI has classified as an eco-terrorist group and lists as its No. — domestic terrorism priority.

If the allegations are true, then Scarpitti has forever ended his ability to make a difference on the environmental front and he's damaged the honorable intentions of all legitimate environmental activists.