SEATTLE – Six people have been arrested in connection with ecoterrorism attacks in Oregon and Washington dating back to 1998, including a fire at an Oregon poplar farm that was set at the same time as a devastating unsolved fire at the University of Washington’s Center for Urban Horticulture.
The university fire, one of the Northwest’s most notorious acts of ecoterrorism, was set early on May 21, 2001. About 110 miles away in Clatskanie, Ore., fire ripped through buildings and vehicles at the Jefferson Poplar Farm, causing more than $1 million in damage. The Earth Liberation Front, a shadowy collection of environmental activists, claimed responsibility for both fires.
UW researchers said the two arrests in the poplar farm case gave them hope that the horticulture center fire would soon be solved. The center, which was rebuilt at a cost of several million dollars, had done work on fast-growing hybrid poplars in hopes of limiting the amount of natural forests that timber companies log.
The arrests were made Wednesday in New York, Virginia, Oregon and Arizona, and each of the defendants has been indicted in Oregon or Washington, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. The attacks included a fire at a U.S. Department of Agriculture facility in Olympia and the toppling of a Bonneville Power Administration transmission tower near Bend, Ore.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Friedman declined to say Thursday how authorities developed information that led to the arrests after years of investigation.
The two people charged in the poplar farm fire were Stanislas Gregory Meyerhoff, 28, and Daniel Gerard McGowan, 31. They are also charged with setting a Jan. 2, 2001, fire that caused more than $1 million in damage at the Superior Lumber Co. in Glendale, Ore.
Meyerhoff was arrested in Charlottesville, Va. McGowan was arrested in New York City.
Kevin M. Tubbs, 36, and William C. Rodgers, 40, face up to 20 years each if convicted of a June 21, 1998, arson at the Agriculture Department’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services facility in Olympia. Another fire at a nearby Agriculture Department research facility, set the same day, remains under investigation.
Tubbs was arrested in Springfield, Ore., and Rodgers was arrested in Prescott, Ariz.
Sarah Kendall Harvey, 28, an administrative assistant at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, was arrested there after being charged in a Dec. 27, 1998, fire at U.S. Forest Industries in Medford, Ore. That fire caused an estimated $500,000 in damage. She faces up to 20 years if convicted.
Chelsea Dawn Gerlach, 28, of Eugene, Ore., was charged with conspiring to destroy an energy facility and destruction of an energy facility in the Dec. 30, 1999, toppling of the transmission tower. A not guilty plea was entered for her Thursday by a court-appointed attorney.