Authorities probe potential eco-terrorist attack

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE: Eco-terrorists may have attacked the Heavenly Ski Resort's Gondola earlier this week.

El Dorado County Sheriff's deputies are meeting with FBI agents today to discuss the possible attack.

The gondola's safety sensors broke during a regular safety check Wednesday morning because the sensors had been tied to a steel cable on which the gondola runs.

A 2-by-16-inch stick was also wired on top of a downhill running steel cable. The stick had apparently been tied on the cable uphill of the tower in an attempt to dislocate the cable from the wheels, according to the police report.

Beside a tower base the letters ELF were spelled in black wire ties. Police believe ELF stands for the Earth Liberation Front, an international underground movement that claims to vandalize in an effort to halt the destruction of the environment while maintaining a nonviolent philosophy.

The group's common targets are ski resorts, laboratories and luxury homes.

Heavenly President Dennis Harmon said he didn't know anything about the group or whether members may have vandalized the gondola.

He said the vandalism only resulted in a couple hundred dollars in damage and didn't stop normal operation for too long.

"The guys got on (the gondola repairs) as soon as we found the damage," Harmon said. "We were back in operation around 11:30 a.m."

Sheriff's deputy Warren Berg said the department is investigating the crime and consulting the FBI because of the front's notoriously destructive past.

"This is the first indication of something like this locally," Berg said. "Who knows if it's just someone who knows how to spell ELF or if it's an act by someone in the group. It could be nothing or it could be the tip of the iceberg."

No one from the organization returned a call Thursday afternoon.

Since 1997, the organization have carried out dozens of destructive acts resulting in more than $30 million in damage.


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