Co-founder, the Ruckus Society; co-founder, Earth First!; co-founder, Rainforest Action Network; former director, Greenpeace USA; Board member, National Forest Protection Alliance; former timber campaigner, (Ralph Nader’s) Resource Conservation AllianceMike Roselle claims to have trained over 1,000 American and Canadian youth to commit unlawful acts through “monkey-wrenching,” “tree-spiking,” and other forms of vandalism and civil disobedience. If you recall an activist scaling Mount Rushmore in 1987 and hanging a giant gas mask on George Washington’s likeness, then you’re already familiar with Roselle’s handiwork (he spent four months in jail for that one).
A high-school dropout, Roselle spent much of his adolescence hitchhiking across the country and protesting against the Vietnam War. His first brush with organized environmentalism came at age 19, when he joined Friends of the Earth in Wyoming anti-logging protests.
In 1980 Roselle become one of the five co-founders of Earth First!. Roselle ran the Earth First! Direct Action Fund, used to finance illegal acts of sabotage, until he lost control of the fund in a divorce settlement with fellow Earth First! radical, Karen Pickett. Funds Roselle controlled were used to print the infamous “Eco-F*cker Hit List” used by Unabomber Ted Kaczynski.
In 1986 Roselle started working for Greenpeace, creating the group’s first American “action teams” — organized groups of activists who would train, prepare, and execute unlawful acts together, as opposed to the ad hoc actions that were previously the norm. In 1990, Greenpeace USA made him the director of their national Rapid Response Team program, and by 1998 he was sitting on the organization’s national board of directors.
Meanwhile, in the 1990s, the Ruckus Society sprang up in the midst of rural Montana. Roselle was and has always been the driving force behind this group. As an organization, Ruckus was “incubated” by a Montana group called The Ecology Center, Inc. (where Roselle has been on the board of directors since before Ruckus existed). It’s worth noting that in addition to Roselle, the only other members of the Ruckus Society’s first board of directors were also on the board of The Ecology Center (Howie Wolke and Timothy Bechtold). Between 1995 and 1998, The Ecology Center gave the Ruckus Society $215,500.