EarthFirst! enviro-radicals emerge from the trees to protest I-70 overhaul

Activists with the radical environmentalist outfit EarthFirst! have apparently taken a hiatus from monkeywrenching logging trucks and boiling pine cones for sustenance during three-month tree-sits to run a campaign in urban Denver against the various proposals to widen or reroute Interstate 70.

So far, "High Country EarthFirst!" -- a recently formed sub-wing of the leaderless group -- has taken credit for dropping a "Stop I-70 Expansion" banner off the Colorado Boulevard overpass during rush hour and wheat-pasting posters across town explaining how the project will "destroy the Elyria and Swansea neighborhoods."

(Reportedly, two EarthFirst!ers were also arrested a few weeks ago while protesting the Home Depot in Glendale. Something to do with dams in Patagonia.)

The 2005 Westword article "My Way for the Highway" looked at the mess of conflicting interests and difficult choices surrounding each of the options that transportation officials were exploring to fix the crumbling, bottlenecking stretch of freeway viaduct between I-25 and Quebec Street. Replace it where it stands and you cement the horrible decision made in the 1960s to plow the road through several poor, working-class neighborhoods, effectively slicing thousands of residents off from the rest of Denver. Reroute it along Brighton Boulevard to Highway 270 and you spend millions more while having to snatch huge portions of land from the National Western Stock Show and several industrial businesses.

Both would require the bulldozing of numerous homes. But oddly, it's the latter option -- which seems to be favored by the state-sponsored team currently drafting the final proposal -- that incenses the activists the most. According to the group's website, this "permanent detour" would:

...displace more than 50 employers (including the Denver Coliseum and the National Stock Show which employ many local residents, and one of two grocers in the area), and bring increased air pollution (a minimum additional 440,000 vehicle miles a day) to an area already plagued by dozens of major polluters, including the Xcel Cherokee Coal Power Plant and the SunCor Oil Refinery. The expansion would also destroy over 300 acres of habitat to mule deer, white tail deer, bald eagle wintering grounds, prairie dog homes, and destroy much of the remaining green space in the area.

Has the author of this manifesto actually been to the area north of Elyria/Swansea? It's not exactly Yellowstone. Mostly, its junkyards, warehouses and fenced-in lots where the city puts impounded vehicles. Regardless, High Country EarthFirst! appears to have placed the project at the top of their list of things to stop. In January, the Department of Homeland Security declassified a report that listed EarthFirst! as one of several "left-wing extremist" organizations to watch out for because of their use of "non-violent and violent tactics that, at times, violate criminal law."

One probably shouldn't put too much weight on the Department's assessment, which also listed the dangerously ineffective DNC protest organizers known as Re-create 68 as an "anarchist extremist" group to keep an eye on. (Yeah, all three of them.)

What someone really ought to protest is the godawful stink from the Purina dog-food factory. Solidarity, anyone?

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