Ecodefense: Field Guide to Monkeywrenching


by Edward Abbey

If a stranger batters your door down with an axe, threatens your family and yourself with deadly weapons, and proceeds to loot your home of whatever he wants, he is committing what is universally recognized — by law and morality — as a crime. In such a situation the householder has both the right and the obligation to defend himself, his family, and his property by whatever means are necessary. This right and this obligation is universally recognized, justified and even praised by all civilized human communities. Self-defense against attack is one of the basic laws not only of human society but of life itself, not only of human life but of all life.

The American wilderness, what little remains, is now undergoing exactly such an assault. Dave Foreman has summarized the character and scale of the assault in the first chapter of this excellent and essential book. With bulldozer, earth mover, chainsaw and dynamite the international timber, mining and beef industries are invading our public lands — property of all Americans — bashing their way into our forests, mountains and rangelands and looting them for everything they can get away with. This for the sake of short-term profits in the corporate sector and multi-million dollar annual salaries for the three-piece-suited gangsters (M.B.A., Harvard, Yale, University of Tokyo, et alia) who control and manage these bandit enterprises. Cheered on, naturally, by Time, Newsweek and the Wall Street Journal, actively encouraged by those jellyfish Government agencies which are supposed to protect the public lands, and as always aided and abetted in every way possible by the quisling politicians of our Western states (such as Babbitt, DeConcini, Goldwater, Hatch, Garn, Symms, Hansen, Wallop, Domenici — to name but a few) who would sell the graves of their own mothers if there’s a quick buck in the deal, over or under the table, what do they care.

Representative democracy in the United States has broken down. Our legislators do not represent those who elected them but rather the minority who finance their political campaigns and who control the organs of communication — the Tee Vee, the newspapers, the billboards, the radio — that have made politics a game for the rich only. Representative government in the USA represents money not people and therefore has forfeited our allegiance and moral support. We owe it nothing but the taxation it extorts from us under threats of seizure of property, or prison, or in some cases already, when resisted, a sudden and violent death by gunfire.

Such is the nature and structure of the industrial megamachine (in Lewis Mumford’s term) which is now attacking the American wilderness. That wilderness is our ancestral home, the primordial homeland of all living creatures including the human, and the present final dwelling place of such noble beings as the grizzly bear, the mountain lion, the eagle and the condor, the moose and the elk and the pronghorn antelope, the redwood tree, the yellowpine, the bristlecone pine, even the aspen, and yes, why not say it?, the streams, waterfalls, rivers, the very bedrock itself of our hills, canyons, deserts, mountains.

For many of us, perhaps for most of us, the wilderness is as much our home, or a lot more so, than the wretched little stucco boxes, plywood apartments, and wallboard condominiums in which we are mostly confined by the insatiable demands of an overcrowded and ever-expanding industrial culture. And if the wilderness is our true home, and if it is threatened with invasion, pillage and destruction — as it certainly is — then we have the right to defend that home, as we would our private rooms, by whatever means are necessary. (An Englishman’s home is his castle; an American’s home is his favorite fishing stream, his favorite mountain range, his favorite desert canyon, his favorite swamp or patch of woods or God-created lake.)

The majority of the American people have demonstrated on every possible occasion that they support the ideal of wilderness preservation; even our politicians are forced by popular opinion to pretend to support the idea; as they have learned, a vote against wilderness is a vote against their own re-election. We are justified in defending our homes — our private home and public home — not only by common law and common morality but also by common belief. We are the majority; they — the greedy and powerful — are the minority.

How best defend our wilderness home? Well, that is a matter of strategy, tactics and technique, which is what this little book is about. Dave Foreman explains the principles of ecological defense in the complete, compact and conclusive pages of his short introduction. I can think of nothing I could add nor of anything I would subtract; he says exactly what needs to be said, no more and no less.

I am happy to endorse the publication of Ecodefense. Never was such a book so needed, by so many, for such good reason, as here and now. Tomorrow might well be too late. This is a book that will fit handily in any saddlebag, in any creel, in any backpack, in any river runner’s ammo can — and in any picnicker’s picnic basket. No good American should ever go into the woods again without this book and, for example, a hammer and a few pounds of 60-penny nails. Spike a few trees now and then whenever you enter an area condemned to chainsaw massacre by Louisiana Pacific and its affiliated subsidiary the U.S. Forest Service. You won’t hurt the trees; they’ll be grateful for the protection; and you may save the forest. My Aunt Emma back in West Virginia has been enjoying this pleasant exercise for years. She swears by it. It’s good for the trees, it’s good for the woods, it’s good for the earth, and it’s good for the human soul. Spread the word-and carry on!

Edward Abbey
July 1984
Oracle, Arizona

Chapter 1: Strategic Monkeywrenching

By Dave Foreman

  Introduction to the Third Edition


  Chapter 1: Strategic Monkeywrenching

    Postscript (1993)

  Chapter 2: The Future of Monkeywrenching

  Chapter 3: Developments

    Tree Spiking

      When to Spike Trees

      Basic Spiking Techniques

        Field Notes

      Advanced Tree Spiking Techniques

        Field Notes

      Spiking Security

      Federal Anti-Spiking Legislation

        Field Note

    Tree Pinning: The Art of Silent Spiking




        Field Notes

      Other Pinning Techniques

        Super Pins

        An Advanced Tree Pinning Technique

      The Increment Borer

        Field Note

    Ceramic Spikes

      Foiling the Detectors: Non-Metallic Tree Spikes

      Inserting Ceramic Tree Spikes

        Field Notes

    Rock Spikes

      Hard Rock vs. Heavy Metal: Quartz Tree Pins


      Rock Types

      Lower Cost Alternatives

        Field Notes

    Plastic and Wood Pulp: The Monkeywrencher’s Dream?

    Non-Destructive Stopping of Logging

      Survey Stakes


        Construction Sites


        Field Notes


        Field Notes


        Field Notes

    Seismographic Lines

      How Seismic Survey Crews Work

      Monkeywrenching Seismic Operations

        Field Note

    Plugging Waste Discharge Pipes

      Choosing Targets

      Plugging A Pipe

      Helpful Hints



        Field Notes

      Hydro Plant Flood Gates


      Salt Blocks

      Water Developments

      Cutting Fence

      Ranching Equipment and Machinery


        Field Notes

      Cautionary Notes About Monkeywrenching Grazing

  Chapter 4: Roads and Tire

    Road Spiking

      Obtaining the Materials

      Expedient Method of Cutting Stakes

        Building a Jig

        Using an Acetylene Torch

      Emplacing the Stakes

      Where to Place Road Spikes

        Field Notes

      An Alternative Spike Driver

      Advanced Road Spiking

    Spikeboards and Nailboards

        Field Notes

    How to Make Caltrops

        Field Notes

    Other Tire Flattening Methods

      Roofing Nails

        Field Note

      Finishing Nails

      Valve Core Extractor

      Railroad Spike/Tie Plate Trap

        Field Note

      Slashing Tires

        Field Notes


        Field Notes

    Closing Roads


      Undercutting a Bank

      Removing the Roadbed



        Field Notes

    Plugging Culverts

  Chapter 5: Vehicles and Heavy Equipment

    Disabling Motor Vehicles of All Kinds

    Heavy Equipment

      Basic Tool Kit


      Gaining Access

      Oil-Access Points

      Lubrication Points

      Selection of Abrasives

        Field Notes

      Other Sabotage Methods

        Field Note


      Related Targets

      Security And Heavy Equipment

        Field Notes

    Cutting Torch

        Field Notes

    Burning Machinery

      Pros And Cons Of Burning

      Igniting Machinery

      Preparing A Machine For Burning

      Getting Diesel Fuel


      Delayed Ignition

      Water craft



      Fixed-Wing Aircraft

      Sabotaging Light Planes

      Advanced Aircraft Ecotage

        Field Notes

    Vehicle Modifications for the Serious Monkeywrencher

      Part One: Electrical

        Dome Lights

        Auxiliary Headlight

        Brake Light Lock-out

        Back-up Lights

        Coil Lock-out System

      Part Two: Fuel Systems

    Water And Big Yellow Machines

        Field Notes

  Chapter 6: Animal Defense

    Trap Lines

      Where to Find Traps and Trap Lines

      Typical Trap Sets

      Trap Line Sabotage

    Handling Trapped Animals

      Simple Noose Sticks

      The Ecodefense Deluxe Noose Pole

      Using The Noose Pole:

      Special Release Problems.

        Field Notes

      The Trap Line In Snow


    Coyote Getter


        Field Notes

    Fence Cutting

      In Your Neighborhood

      Just Passing Through

      Animal Enterprise Protection Act

  Chapter 7: Miscellaneous Deviltry

    Urban Monkeywrenching

      Attack on an Urban Residence

      Private Automobiles.

      Attacks on Corporate Offices

      The “Daring Daylight Raid”

    Fun With Slingshots

        Field Notes

    Condo Trashing

        Field Note

    Computer Sabotage

      Hardware Sabotage

        Field Notes

      Records Sabotage

        Field Notes

      Software Sabotage

        Security Tips for Hackers

        Field Notes

    Stink Bombs

        Field Notes

      Stink Grenade

    Smoke Bombs

      Smoke In Their Eyes!

      How To Use Them

      Information Sources:

      Smoke Device Sources:

        Field Notes

    Jamming Locks

        Field Notes

    Disrupting Illegal Activities

    Trash Return

        Field Note

    Mountain Bikes

      Getting Started

      Advantages of Mountain Bikes

      Disadvantages of Mountain Bikes


      Editor’s Note

        Field Notes

  Chapter 8: Propaganda

    Advanced Billboarding

      Target Selection



      Metal Posts

      Other Targets

      Chain Saw

        Field Notes

      Billboard Trashing

        Field Notes

      Billboard Revision

        Field Note

      Burning Billboards

        Field Notes

    Paint Remover

        Field Note

      Etching Cream

    Posters and Silent Agitators


        Field Note


      Silent Agitators

        Field Note

      Correcting Forest Service Signs

        Field Note

    Spray Paint Slogans

        Field Notes





        Field Note

  Chapter 9: Security

    Basic Security

      Target Selection

        Field Note


      The Team

        Field Notes



      Night Operations

        Field Notes

    Military Movement

      Direction and Distance

      Alternate Assembly Areas

      Silent Communication

    Rules of Security

      Disposing of Evidence

      No Evidence

      Written Records

    Avoiding Arrest

        Field Notes


      Light Reflections


        Field Notes



        Field Notes


      Vehicle Camouflage

        Field Notes

        Field Notes — General Camouflage

    Tools of the Trade


      A Fanny Pack For Monkeywrenchers


    Radios and Communications Equipment

      Types of Radios

      Practice and Use

        Field Notes

      Radio Fingerprints

      Military Surplus Radios

      Police Band Radios

        Field Notes

      Further Comments On Radios

      Unusual CB Channels

      Cellular Telephones

    Eyes of Night


      Standard Optics

      Infrared Spotting Scope

      Starlight Scope

      Thermal Imager

      Protection From Night Vision Surveillance

      Bionic Ear


        Field Note

    Car Camping

        Field Notes

    Daily Routine

      Run repeated surveillance checks before any mission.

    Mental Conditioning


      Anti-Bugging Devices

      Electronic Surveillance

      FBI Updates Eavesdropping Methods


      Approaching A Forest Site

      Automobile Trailing

      Drug Searches


    Advanced Investigation Methods

      DNA “Fingerprinting”

        Field Note

      Ultraviolet Tracing

      Advanced Fingerprinting Techniques

      State-Of-The-Art Video Surveillance

      Telephone Monitoring

        Field Notes

      Police Undercover Operations

      The Undercover Infiltrator

      Going Undercover

      Undercover Tactics

      Private Undercover Operations

      Confidential Informants

      Defense Against Undercover Activities

      Double Agents

      Exposing Undercover Agents

      Background Check on Suspected Infiltrators



        Field Notes

      Combination Locks


        Field Notes


      Closed-Circuit Television


        Field Note


        Field Notes

      Guard Dogs

        If Attacked by a Guard Dog

        Field Note

    Pursuit and Evasion

      Vehicular Pursuit

        Field Note

      Self Defense

      Cross-Country Evasion


        Field Notes


      If You Are Arrested

        Field Note

    Media Relations


        Field Notes

      Advanced Communiqué Sending

        Field Note

      BLM Procedure for Ecotage Letters

      Telephone Contacts

      Advanced Telephone Contacts

      Personal Interviews


        Field Note

    General Security Field Notes

  Epilogue: Marine Monkeywrenching

    Sinking Whaling Ship

    The Marine Eco-Mechanic

    International Engine Room Colorcode


      Tool List

      Optional Equipment

    Secondary Sabotage Techniques


    Ramming Ships

    Destruction of Drift Nets

    Engaging Naval Forces on the High Seas

    Anti-Boarding Deterrents

    The Eco-Navy

This book is dedicated to:

Edward Abbey 1927–1989

John Zaelit (Mr. Goodwrench) 1954–1986

Bill Turk (The Mad Engineer) 1953–1992

Wilderness needs no defense, only more defenders

Introduction to the Third Edition

Ecodefense is a historical artifact. It be argued that it is the most controversial environmental book ever published; more importantly, though, it is a key exhibit in the legal history of freedom of the press in the United States. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified in 1791. It reads in part, “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.” That enshrined freedom of the press and speech sets the United States of America apart from all other nations. No other country so jealously defends the right of its citizens to speak and publish controversial ideas.

Several years ago when Australia banned the importation and sale of Ecodefense, it was not possible for the United States to follow suit — because of the First Amendment. Instead, the United States government spent several million dollars, employed a small army of FBI agents, and entrapped a number of citizens in 1987–89 in an effort to suppress publication and distribution of Ecodefense. That attack on free speech and the freedom of the press glares like a pustulating boil in American history just as do the Alien and Sedition Acts, the Palmer Raids, and McCarthyism.

We at Abbzug Press believe that the Bill of Rights is like a set of muscles — if they aren’t exercised, they atrophy. Therefore, it is our patriotic duty to defend the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and publish a new Third Edition of Ecodefense: A Field Guide to Monkeywrenching.

Efforts to suppress Ecodefense and to entrap its co-editor, Dave Foreman, have been well covered elsewhere and we will not go into them here. Nor will we here attempt to justify the practice or necessity of monkeywrenching. Edward Abbey’s Forward! and the first two chapters of this edition do that. Monkeywrenching is also justified in Ed Abbey’s novels The Monkey Wrench Gang and Hayduke Lives!, Howie Wolke’s Wilderness on the Rocks, Christopher Manes’s Green Rage, and, in greater detail, Dave Foreman’s Confessions of an Eco-Warrior.

We will here, however, rebut two myths about Ecodefense. First, it is widely believed that Ecodefense (or Abbey’s Monkey Wrench Gang) launched the practice of monkeywrenching. In fact, ecological sabotage was widespread before Ecodefense was first published in 1985 and even before The Monkey Wrench Gang was published in 1975.

The second myth is that Dave Foreman wrote Ecodefense. The first edition of Ecodefense was a compilation of articles and letters sent to the Earth First! Journal by dozens of individuals. This Third Edition has over two dozen major contributors and at least one hundred other contributors. In this edition, we have given aliases to credit all articles and significant field notes where the author did not offer her own alias. In the previous editions, Dave Foreman and Bill Haywood compiled, edited, and arranged the contributions. We have retained their names as editors for the Third Edition since it is largely based on the previous editions.

There are changes in the Third Edition, however. Some material deemed to be irrelevant or counterproductive has been dropped. Incorrect information has also been dropped. Much new information has been incorporated. Most of it was contributed between 1987 and 1989. A professional editor was retained to rewrite, copy edit, arrange, and otherwise clean up all of the text. Some previous material has been rearranged.

Edward Abbey and two other contributors, John Zaelit and Bill Turk, have died since the First Edition of Ecodefense. This Third Edition is dedicated to their memories and to the fierce green fire that burned in their eyes. They were heroes, defenders of their native land.

We thank the other defenders of the land who contributed to Ecodefense, though they must remain anonymous. It is their book.

When we began work on the Third Edition we asked Dave Foreman for any thoughts he might offer to today’s reader of Ecodefense. He responded:

Is your act a strategic one, or is it merely an inarticulate yell, conveying only rage, alienation, and despair? Monkeywrenchers must constantly ask themselves:

  • Who is my audience?

  • What is my message?

  • Will this deter destruction?

  • Are there legal means not yet used?

Of course this Third Edition of Ecodefense, like those before it, is meant only to entertain. No one should take it seriously.

— Matthew Lyon for Abbzug Press


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