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Woman Eyed in Ecoterror Attacks, Including Colo. Ski Resort Firebombing

A woman charged with damaging a transmission tower also is suspected in half a dozen other ecoterror crimes, including a firebombing at a Colorado ski resort, one of the costliest such crimes in the United States.

Chelsea Gerlach was ordered held without bail after Assistant U.S. Attorney Kirk Engdahl made the allegations against her.

Federal public defender Craig Weinerman argued that the evidence against Gerlach was meager.

Gerlach, 28, was among six people arrested in five states last week on indictments alleging they set fires and damaged property between 1998 and 2001 in Oregon and Washington. The Earth Liberation Front and Animal Liberation Front took responsibility for most of the crimes.

Gerlach, of Portland, is charged with helping two others topple a Bonneville Power Administration high-tension line 25 miles east of Bend in 1999.

Engdahl said he will present evidence to a grand jury Wednesday seeking indictments against Gerlach in a 1999 meatpacking fire in Eugene and a 2001 firebombing at a tree farm in Clatskanie.

The prosecutor also said Gerlach is suspected in the 1998 firebombing of the ski resort at Vail, Colo. Four buildings and four chairlifts at the top of the mountain were damaged or destroyed, and damages were set at $12 million.

No one has been arrested in the case, despite a reward offer of $50,000.

Engdahl said she is suspected as well in a 1998 attempted arson at Bureau of Land Management wild horse corrals in Rock Springs, Wyo.; a 1999 the arson at a Boise Cascade office in Monmouth, Ore.; and a 2001 firebombing of a University of Washington horticultural research center in Seattle.

Weinerman said the evidence against Gerlach so far amounted only to statements from two informants involved in the meatpacking plant arson.

In a statement, Gerlach's family said they believe she is innocent.

"The person we know and love is incapable of such acts," the statement said. "We are all dedicated to keeping a constant watch to make sure that she is treated fairly and with respect, so that her innocence will not be clouded by the fear-inspiring and unfounded labels of 'terrorist."'