Rod Coronado, an activist for the restoration of the gray wolf to the federal protected species list, gives a lecture in the Engineering East Building Monday. Jesse Franz / The Collegian
Rod Coronado, a high-profile radical environmentalist who some hail as a former political prisoner and others label an eco-terrorist, spoke at Fresno State Monday discussing the delisting of the gray wolf from the federal protected species list.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, under the Endangered Species Act, has instituted protections for the wolf since 1978. Over the past three years, the service has delisted the wolf in the Northern Rockies and Western Great Lakes — its prime habitats.
The service is considering further rolling back federal protections for the animal, allowing the rest of the lower 48 states to create their own regulations, which Coronado says will harm wolf populations that are still rebounding from near extinction.
“We’re seeing a war on wolves,” he said. “A war on one of the most iconic, majestic animals in this country. An animal that everybody has recognized was an endangered species on the brink of extinction.”
Now on a mission to change what he sees as institutional wrongs with environmental policy through speaking and raising awareness, Coronado is traveling across the U.S. to fight for greater federal protections for the gray wolf.
One of the main groups opposed to gray wolf protections are ranchers who say protecting wolves makes their livestock more vulnerable to attack. In response to their concerns, Coronado proposes a compromise in an attempt to appease both sides.
“What I believe is through better animal husbandry practices and better non-lethal controls, we can better help the wolves while decreasing the chances that their populations will be eliminated in a way that will not cause undue loss to people who depend on cattle,” he said.
The speech, which drew a crowd that filled the seats of Engineering East Room 191, encouraged students to get involved with the issue and send letters to government officials.
The event was coordinated by Barri Brennan, a teaching associate in communication studies at Fresno State who is currently doing a research project on the gray wolf.
“The wolf is one issue, but this is symbolic of a greater issue about how we relate to our environment,” Brennan said.
Coronado, who is a Pasqua Yaqui Native American, grew up in Clovis and has been part of environmental advocacy groups for the past 30 years.
Widely known for his involvement with radical groups like the Earth Liberation Front and Animal Liberation Front, Coronado spent more than six years in prison between 1995 and 2010 for participating in what he called “economic sabotage.”
This includes acts such as the sinking of Icelandic whaling ships, an arson attack on a Michigan State animal research facility and a demonstration of an incendiary device at a public speech. Though no one was ever hurt during these acts, they landed Coronado behind bars and he was charged him with millions of dollars in restitution.
“In all of his actions in the past, no matter what form they might have taken, every precaution was taken in the course of those actions to make sure that no person was ever physically harmed,” said Dr. Michael Becker, a Fresno State political science professor and longtime friend of Coronado.
“Nevertheless, he is labeled, and many of the people he’s worked with are labeled, eco-terrorists,” Becker said.
Coronado also participated in a controversial event at Fresno State in 2003 called the Revolutionary Environmentalism Conference. The two-day event, which sought to bridge the gap between radical and academic environmentalists, was the subject of heavy police presence and outrage from some members of the community.
Protesters of the conference largely focused criticisms on participants like Coronado who were involved in illegal activity. But, over a decade later, Tuesday’s speech at Fresno State occurred without contention.
In 2006, Coronado released a statement from prison to his supporters saying that he would be seeking more peaceful means of advocacy in the future.
“Like all strategists, I have also been forced to recognize that times have changed and it is now my belief that the movements to protect earth and animals have achieved enough with this strategy to now consider an approach that does not compromise objectives, but increases the likelihood of real social change,” Coronado said.
“He wants to be remembered as a peaceful person,” Becker said. “As a person who brings a sense of love to the issues that he cares about, and a person who’s trying to build a very constructive movement that’s not in any way antagonistic.”