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Edited by: John Stewart

The Wildlands Project Comes to Hidalgo County - Part 6

The Wildlands Project: Dave Foreman

by: Judy Keeler

The most charismatic, yet the most controversial, player in the Wildlands Project is no doubt Dave Foreman. Known for his wolf howls that tend to drive his audience into a frenzy of responding howls, he has the innate ability to draw his followers into the melodrama. Likely perfected during his days as the “unspoken” leader of Earth First!, his howls have become a part of his persona.

Much in demand as a speaker, he has entertained crowds from California to Colorado to Maryland. Along the way he has authored several books, including “Ecodefense: A Field Guide to Monkeywrenching”. In this book Foreman details how his followers can “monkeywrench”, or sabotage, dams, power plants, industrial equipment, windmills, and water storage tanks, as well as other artifacts of civilization. Publicized as a great “how-to book on destroying everything”, the book is designed to equip eco-saboteurs with the knowledge necessary to make much needed “social changes”.

Foreman also authored, “Confessions of an Eco Warrior”, “The Big Outside”, in collaboration with Howie Wolke, and his most recent book, “Lobo Outback Funeral Home”.

Not many agree which came first Earth First!, or “The Monkey Wrench Gang” written by Edward Abbey, but everyone agrees they both embrace the concepts endorsed by Foreman in his book “Ecodefense: A Field Guide to Monkeywrenching”, in which he lays out the plans for the Wildlands Project.

During the early ‘70s Foreman worked for the Wilderness Society as their Southwest Regional Representative in New Mexico. From there he moved up to become Director of Wilderness Affairs in Washington, D.C. According to an individual who had worked closely with him during his New Mexico days, it was during his trek to lobby at the national capitol that Foreman became disillusioned with the “system”.

Returning to Arizona and New Mexico, Foreman was a changed man. No longer satisfied to count species along the Gila River, apparently he decided more radical measures had to be taken to ensure wilderness became the focus of public and congressional activities.

It was also during this time he founded Earth First! With this group he found a voice to vent his frustration with the system. Whether it was at clandestine meetings, or as editor of the “Earth First! Journal”, Foreman also found a following for his radical views of mankind and the perceived destruction humanity brings upon the Earth.

After being arrested on charges of plotting to sabotage several nuclear facilities by downing power lines serving the plants, Foreman spun away from Earth First! in the late ‘80’s to become co-founder, and chairman of the Wildlands Project by 1991. Less controversial than Earth First! this organization provided the vehicle he needed to gain mainstream support for enlarging wilderness areas. It also provided a more open public platform than the Earth Firster’s clandestine forest rendezvouses. In addition, it gave Foreman a podium, via academia, by which to propel the Wildlands Project’s Master Plan into the arena of public opinion.

Often compared to a zealous “hellfire and brimstone” preacher, Foreman is most known for his claims that humanity is a scourge on the planet. Based upon Paul Ehrlich’s past prediction that the earth would no longer be able to sustain its population by 1990, and refueled with current predictions by the World Wildlife Fund that the human race will plunder “the planet at a pace that outstrips its capacity to support life” by 2050, Foreman has this to say: "Right now, we are in the middle of the sixth great extinction episode in earth's history, and we can't blame this one on an asteroid."

In order to save the world, all human impacts on the planet must be eliminated or at the very least, severely prohibited. Population must be reduced, immigration into the U.S., severely restricted. It was the Sierra Club’s refusal to adopt Foreman’s policy on immigration that caused him to leave as a board of director for the organization in 1997.

By 1999, firmly seated as the guru of wilderness, Foreman joined with others to establish the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance. Joining Foreman were: Todd Schulke, founder and staff member of Southwest Center for Biological Diversity; Dave Parson, wildlife biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and program leader for the reintroduction of Mexican wolves into the Southwest; Jim Baca, former mayor of Albuquerque and past national director of the Bureau of Land Management; C. Wesley Leonard, director of the Energy Center at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) and chairman of the Management Committee of the Southwest Center for Environmental Research and Policy - UTEP; and Jim Scarantino, Albuquerque attorney, chairman of the Coalition for New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, and NM REP Foundation (Republicans for Environmental Protection).

Just as Charles Manson’s followers believed he held mystical power, as discussed in Vincent Bugliosi’s book, “Helter Skelter”, so the followers of Dave Foreman believe he receives his revelations from a higher power. According to one account, Foreman, caught up in the revelry of the moment and filled to overflowing with tequila, threw an empty bottle in the air during a rendezvous with other wilderness proponents in the Chisos Mountains of the Big Bend National Park in 1984. To everyone’s amazement, as a dozen eyes watched the bottle spin into the heavenlies, it mysteriously disappeared. No one heard the bottle falling back to earth, or shattering into a thousand pieces.

Foreman still mesmerizes his followers today with his charisma, charm, and dogma. Not much has changed over the years, but his constituency is growing within the arenas of academia, congress, and federal and state agencies.

Much could be written about Dave Foreman, more than this newspaper can hold. For those with inquiring minds, I’ve included some related articles that are a must read for those who want to know more about the Wildlands Project and its many faceted leader.

Next week – The Nature Conservancy

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