William C. Rogers, one of 6 arrested nationwide December 7, 2005 on suspicion of various acts of eco-terrorism, may have taken part in the 1998 Vail Colorado arson that resulted in $12 million damage. According to Vail Daily:
An Arizona bookstore owner is the latest suspect linked by federal officials to the 1998 arson attacks on Vail Mountain.
In Flagstaff, Ariz., FBI Special Agent Doug Linter testified in U.S. District Court that investigators suspect Prescott, Ariz., bookstore owner William C. Rodgers in the fire that destroyed the Two Elk restaurant, chairlifts and other buildings.
Earlier this week, prosecutors linked a Portland, Ore., woman, Chelsea D. Gerlach, to the arson. The Earth Liberation Front, which claimed responsibility for the fires, said the attack was a protest of what the group said was a threat to rare lynx by Vail Mountain's expansion into Blue Sky Basin.
"By golly, I didn't think they'd every find them. It was quite a tragedy for us, but I'm not sure if it's them," said longtime valley resident Alan Nottingham. "I supported (the expansion). I really don't think it affected the lynx habitat."
Both Rodgers and Gerlach are already in custody, facing charges in other "ecoterror" attacks.
Rodgers is also a suspect in arson attacks against wild horse corrals in Burns, Ore., and Rock Springs, Wyo.; the University of Washington Urban Horticultural Center in Seattle and a federal plant research lab in Olympia, Wash., Linter said.
It looks like Mr. Rogers has been around.
"I feel some gratification that they're in custody and that police continue to pursue this," said Ron Riley, a longtime resident and business owner. "I know it never got off the radar, and I know they didn't have a lot to work with or clearly something would have happened before this."
Rodgers was arrested last week on charges alleging he was involved in the firebombing of a government wildlife lab outside Olympia, Wash.
In the first physical evidence disclosed in the case, the inventory of a six-hour search of Rodgers' residence and bookstore listed boxes of suspected bomb-making materials such as timers and re-lighting birthday candles and three guns. Police also found two digital photos of nude, prepubescent girls stored on a compact disc.
Linter also reported a recorded conversation where Rodgers told an unknown acquaintance that he was "planning something big" involving some kind of arson after the end of his relationship with his girlfriend, Katie Nelson.
Mr. Rogers clearly hasn't fashioned himself after the model of PBS's Mr. Rogers . . .
In another story, we learn that Mr. Rogers was fingered by a "Confidential Witness:"
[ . . . ]
The informant -- identified only as a "confidential witness" or "CW" -- told an FBI agent that William C. Rodgers, a Prescott, Ariz., bookstore owner, met the informant to plan the Vail fires, according to a search warrant affidavit unsealed Friday in federal court in Eugene. Rodgers was driving a Toyota pickup that would prove helpful in the government's investigation, the document indicated.
"The CW further informed me that Rodgers was using the same pickup during the meeting in western Colorado where they discussed the planned arson at the Vail Ski Resort in October 1998," FBI agent John Ferreira wrote.
[ . . . ]
The Vail Daily News article continues with its nice summary, which includes the statement of a personal preference by one Mr. Packy Walker:
Packy Walker, owner and general manager of the Lifthouse Condominiums, said the evidence is all too circumstantial to draw conclusions about what he called an "idiotic" crime.
"It's a bunch of wackos up there starting fires, and we needed to cut down even more trees to rebuild that building," Walker said. "I hope they catch them. And if they're guys, I think they should take their pants off, nail their testicles to a tree and push them down backwards. If they're tree huggers, then that's what they should do with them."
[ . . . ]
Mr. Walker has a way with words, doesn't he?
His point, of course, that more trees will be cut down to rebuild the torched building, is spot on.
Which gets to the "why" of all this . . . sure, the Vail arson and ones like it are acts of eco-sabotage and terrorism, but they seem far less materially effective than they are symbolic. Those responsible must know that, for example, when they torch a car dealership, a condominium or a ski resort, the fires they set will pollute like hell, which is counterproductive to what the arsonists claim to be their goal: a pristine environment, one unsullied by the human hand.
Beyond the pollution, whatever material losses are sustained will be replaced forthwith, and the replacement, especially in the case of buildings, will require that the environment will be further "despoiled" — there will be just that much more demand for wood and other building supplies for the building's replacement, additional fuel will be burned to transport the new materials to the building site, etc.
The arsonists must know that even if they scare the hell out of the local residents, they aren't going to stop the inevitable: the car dealership will survive in spite of their best efforts at making it not; the buildings will be rebuilt in one form or another, no matter how completely they were destroyed.
Though it's hard to generalize, I keep coming back to this: it seems to me that acts of eco-terror like this are far more important to the arson-planners for their symbolic value than they are for their practical value. I suspect that the symbolism serves both a personal need — in the sense of answering the call of one's conscience by doing something, anything, to oppose Man the Despoiler — and a public need, a need symbolize the depth of commitment felt by those who have appointed themselves caretakers of the universe.
We seem to live in a world where depth of commitment to a cause and fidelity to one's conscience are themselves virtues, irrespective of what the cause might be, as if one's conscience is infallible.
A conscience is not infallible, the depth of one's commitment is not a virtue in and of itself. Losing sight of these simple but fundamental truths puts one on the fast track for making very big mistakes — ones with life-altering, future-destroying consequences.