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The Evolution of ELF After "Operation Backfire"

By an anonymous IWW Member - ca. 2010

Media reports claim that several alleged ELF eco-warriors turned snitches, including Briana Waters, Chelsea Dawn Gerlach, William Cottrell, Darren Todd Thurston, Ian Jacob Wallace, Jacob (Jake the SNAKE) Ferguson, Jen Kolar, Kevin Tubbs, Lacey Phillabaum, Lauren Weiner, Stanislas Gregory Meyerhoff, Ryan Lewis, Kendall Tankersley, Frank Ambrose, Zachary Jensen, Suzanne Savoie, Aaron Ellringer and Katherine Christianson.  They reportedly all caved in and "cooperated" with authorities.  But, more than twenty ELF activists did not have to lose their freedom in order to wage an effective battle defending the Earth.

They could have learned by another person's experience:  Thirty six years ago, in 1977 (around the time when Chelsea Gerlach was being born), an arrest occurred which showed that arson and the use of explosives is counterproductive to the environmental movement.  John Hanna of Santa Cruz, California, was the first ELF "ecommando" to be arrested for underground guerrilla actions done in defense of the environment.  He ended up facing a federal judge in 1978 where he was convicted of placing fire bombs on seven crop dusters, sent to prison and spent years rebuilding his life.

ELF origins

Hanna founded the original ELF (Environmental Life Force) in 1977 before Earth First! and the Earth Liberation Front were established.  He is recognized as the founding father of the ELF concept, a philosophy that has been adopted by the Earth Liberation Front and continues to this day.  This was the first eco-guerrilla unit to use direct action and the name ELF.  As originally conceived, the ELF would have no central leadership or chain of command.  Each cell was intended to be  autonomous and an individual could join or drop out at will.  Anyone could call him or her self a member of ELF but no one can be an ELF leader.

Today's ELF, Earth Liberation Front, came into being around 1992 and rejoined the battle to protect Earth by using the same tactics employed by the original ELF fifteen years earlier.  There is speculation that today's "new" version of ELF was reinvented by former members of Earth First! in the UK.  This may well be true since it is an historical and irrefutable fact that Earth First! founder, Dave Foreman and original ELF founder, John Hanna were communicating as early as 1985 (this is shown in a letter posted on the Original ELF archives page).  By 2009, actions allegedly perpetrated by members of the "new" ELF had resulted in numerous arrests with predictable consequences. 

Reportedly, some ELF co-conspirators "refused to cooperate" with the government.  One of them was Daniel Gerard McGowan.  He received a sentence of seven years in prison.  On June 11, 2007, reporter Amy Goodman interviewed McGowan on Democracy Now! (an independent NPR and Pacifica Radio program).  In part, McGowan had this to say:  "...I definitely have regrets...that I employed arson as a tactic.  I wish I had people in my life at the time to kinda guide me back to a different path".

Regardless of the frustration we all feel about the enormous perils facing our Mother Earth, engaging the perceived wrong-doers with threats, intimidation and destructive tactics will always fail.  Fighting fire with fire will get you burned.

This (document) was created for two reasons: one is to counterbalance inflammatory rhetoric puked out by self-appointed, unofficial ELF "spokesmen".  Their truculent, rehashed political tirades offer nothing to an independent, intelligent eco-activist.  Their real agenda is to foment insurrection by duping the gullible into believing the Earth can be saved through violence.  Then, when the elves get busted, these parasites get busy, profiting off the true activists' misfortune.

These self-aggrandizing, ego-tripping ELF "spokesmen" urge would-be ELF combatants to wage war in defense of the Earth "by any means necessary".  But, at the same time, the fake poseurs sit safely on the sidelines, taking no risks while they pander to the media and bask in the limelight.  These hypocrites are pocketing lots of money off the sale of their specious books about ELF and publishing a delusional and short-lived 'eco-radical' magazine.

Their actions expose the truth: They are greedy capitalist pigs pretending to be anarchists.  Like diseased cockroaches, they scurry from one lecture to another, charging money to speak while hawking their pusillanimous tracts that aren't worth the paper they're written on.  Save the trees - don't buy trash from these two-faced ego-radicals. 

It is hard to choose who are the most contemptible: the growing number of snitches from within the ranks of ELF, or these two parasitic and opportunistic provocateurs bleating in front of network camera crews (whom they say should be destroyed).  Both entities have managed to discredit the Earth Liberation Front.  Most odious is Craig Rosebraugh's $650,000 trust-funded hypocrisy; click the following link to read about this former ELF spokesman's hostile, anti-labor stand against employees he ripped off at his failed yuppie bistro:  This guy gives naked rats a bad name.  Now this greedy lying bastard has moved to L.A. and has set his beady eyes on film making.  He's exploiting yet another hot-button environmental issue by producing a disingenuous film on global warming.  As always, he offers no solutions.  When the media attention and money fades, he'll cut and run just like he did with the ELF.

But in spite of the snitching and self-serving duplicity that has eviscerated the Earth Liberation Front, the concept and philosophy of ELF can survive and continue to evolve forcefully and effectively . . .

The other reason this web page was created, is to suggest a new direction for ELF.  In order to win the hearts and minds of the people ELF hopes to influence and gain support from, a thoughtful, even-handed approach is necessary.  Continuing the underground approach will perpetuate past mistakes.  The life of an eco-guerrilla isn't heroic, romantic or courageous.  It is a lonely and paranoid existence and offers no long-term achievements.  It merely feeds the system with new prisoners.  Before anyone chooses to embark on this perilous journey, first consider the fates of the Original ELF, Weather Underground, New World Liberation Front and the New Dawn Party. 

One of New Dawn's cadre was Steven Robert Scipes, a former US Marine sergeant.  He and other New Dawn guerrillas calling themselves the Emiliano Zapata Unit, were arrested by federal agents in February, 1976.  At the time, police discovered almost 150 pounds of explosives at their safehouse which they said was part of a larger 1,100 pound cache of stolen dynamite.  The arrests effectively ended the New Dawn Party's ongoing bombing campaign against Safeway stores and other targets in California.  In addition, feds uncovered documents laying out plans to blow up a city's water supply, thought to be Portland, Oregon.  Scipes was arrested on charges of being in possession of unregistered explosives.

The point of this tale is this:  some thirty-five years later, Steven Scipes, the New Dawn/Zapata Unit's revolutionary guerrilla fighter has now morphed into  Steven R. "Kim" Scipes, PhD, professor of sociology at Purdue University.  Although he has never fully repudiated his radical past, he has clearly made a choice to focus his abundant energy into a more civil and effective form of activism.  He has authored many books and articles and here is a link to a piece titled: It's Time for a Deep Green Vision for the United States - and the World

Now, contemplate how violence has served both former and contemporary radical groups and what is ultimately accomplished in the end?  More to the point, what positive effect on the environment can be claimed since John Hanna's original ELF concept was launched?

There are a multitude of problems facing our Earth.  To wage a successful campaign, FOCUS on a single issue that means the most to YOU.  STUDY the problem and formulate viable alternatives leading to a solution.  Then put your plan into action.  It does not help to rage against a problem without offering solutions.

Although there has never been an injury or death stemming from an ELF action, it can happen regardless how carefully things are planned in advance.  A critical evaluation of past ELF actions exposes the obvious: arson is a dangerous and unpredictable strategy that can get out of control very easily.  Even if the attack does not injure or kill an innocent person, there are no winners.  Torching sport utility vehicles, ski resorts, research labs and McMansions, releases huge amounts of toxic gasses into the atmosphere - creating far more greenhouse gasses than if they were left alone.  The end result: everything is rebuilt, replaced or repaired.  This DOUBLES the burden on the environment and taxpayers!  An exercise in futility and self-defeat.  Think about it.

Those who are now serving prison sentences are effectively removed from the battle to save our planet.  We are all losers in that regard, even the Feds.  If anything can be learned from Operation Backfire, it is the necessity to channel our frustrations and concern for earth's welfare into positive direct action.  Build - don't destroy.  Build consensus and public support.  Get an education and build a better world and future.

In a point/counterpoint-style interview in the Epoch Journal (Vol. 2, Issue 3 Spring 2008), a self-proclaimed ELF "spokesman", Leslie James Pickering and Original ELF founder, John Hanna, laid out their divergent viewpoints:  Pickering mused that by bringing together mainstream and ELF activists, it would make the most effective environmental movement in U.S. history.

In essence, Hanna responded: For that to ever take place, ELF needs to abandon arson as a tactic and stop filling up the prisons.  Working within the system gets the best results.  Winning one for Mother Earth without lowering yourself to your adversary's level will be your reward and the ranks of ELF will expand (John Hanna Q&A: ).


Only convicted ELF activists, such as Grant Barnes, Nathan Block, Marie Mason, Eric McDavid, Daniel McGowan, John Hanna, Eva and Lili Holland, Bryan Lefey,  Jonathan Paul, Briana Waters, Joyanna Zacher and others that have served or are serving their prison sentences honorably (without snitching), can make official comments and speak as a legitimate ELF spokesperson.  Prison validates an ELF spokesperson's credentials; they've earned their stripes (click to view photos).


On the flip side of the coin, there are a couple of websites that use Earth Liberation Front in their domain names: One site wants to peddle Viagra and the other site's drug of choice is violence and arson.  This upstart claims to be an official ELF conduit for press releases and communications.  But the counterfeit site's true goal is to instigate political insurrection and showcase their inflammatory books written for personal gain and fame.  These dilettante opportunists urge others to put their asses in jeopardy while they cower behind their keyboards as their egos and bank accounts swell.

Ask yourself this: Have any of these fractious interlopers actually participated in ELF actions or done time in prison?  The answer is probably NO.  So, figure that any self-proclaimed "spokesperson" or "Press Officer" who's never been convicted for alleged ELF actions may be a provocateur or some wannabe that's likely to snitch you off to save their rat ass.  Be smart and don't trust them... think for yourself and never, never conspire with anyone!

So, BEWARE of bogus websites claiming to be "legitimate"  ELF forums which lure unwary eco-activists into submitting ELF communiques for publication.  Ah, ha, ha... that's a good one!  Don't allow yourself to be duped.  The Earth Liberation Front means being self-reliant... it has no central leadership and it doesn't need a website to post ELF communiques!  (Rest assured, the mainstream media or will report on any ELF action).


If, as stated, the ELF's mission is to defend and protect the Earth for future generations by means of direct action, then the high moral road must be taken in order to succeed.  Historically, elves have a reputation for being mischievous.  The practice of non-violent civil disobedience can be considered a mischievous act (in the time-honored tradition of Mahatma Gandhi, who ran the British out of India).  But, non-violent direct action should only be considered as a last resort.  Anyone choosing this path must be prepared to face potential life-changing consequences.  Remember Hippocrates' most famous dictum: primum non nocere, which means, first do no harm .


This (document) has been printed on 100% recycled cyber fiber.  Save the internet for future generations - plant a pixel today.  Content, graphics and technical support has been provided by an emancipated ELF jailbird (who served his time and never sang) and retired fellow worker with the IWW (Industrial Workers of the World), Industrial Unit No. 330.

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