AUGUSTA – In the very same month that nonfarm payroll employment shrank by 125,000, Maine had some more bad news on the employment front: We had the dubious distinction of hosting the annual international meeting of Earth First!

In press accounts, representatives of the radical environmental organization said repeatedly that their goal is to “cost corporations a lot of money” through what they call “direct action,” which often means committing acts of vandalism to garner press attention and silence opponents.

You may remember Earth First! is the same group that dumped hundreds off pounds of rotting lobster waste on the front lawn of the Blaine House a few years ago and launched into a profanity-laden rage at a LURC hearing last fall.

From June 29 to July 6, members of Earth First! had a teach-in where, presumably, they shared recipes for vandalism, tree spiking and spray painting.

JUST NORMAL FOLKS?

One organizer summed it up by saying that “we’re really just a bunch of normal folks who care about the future of our planet.”

Unlike most educational seminars, Earth First!’s soiree ended by having its members get chased across several Maine counties by a panoply of law enforcement agencies.

Earth First! is not your mother’s bird-watching club.

When radical groups come to Maine with the sole purpose of costing companies money and policy makers don’t speak up, they are harming each person who depends on a healthy economy by driving up the cost of doing business.

They also send a message to potential investors that Maine will let public policy be shaped by the same handful of serial arrestees who seem to have figured out our catch-and-release system for budding eco-terrorists.

A modicum of leadership from a politician or maybe even the mainstream environmental movement, would send a strong message to the dozen and a half or so militant activists that the game is over — and that they have lost.

A recent poll demonstrated that only 10 percent of Mainers are against wind power, which presumably includes the aforementioned repeat offenders.

The other 90 percent of us are pleased, in varying degrees, with the over $750 million in investment and 2,000 jobs the wind industry has brought to Maine.

Where is the politicians’ righteous indignation when protesters threaten a Maine company with blockades, graffiti and arson?

Elected officials should speak out against these intimidation tactics — and against the threats to people’s jobs. The same leaders who participate in ribbon cuttings and plant tours have an obligation to repudiate the type of activity we saw in Franklin County last week.

So do the state’s environmental organizations, which share many of the group’s goals, if not their tactics.

It is unacceptable for anyone’s protest to cause harm, physical, economic or otherwise to another. Our state’s environmental policy is set by elected officials and each citizen has a right to participate in that process.

Earth First! and others of their ilk aren’t content to let policy matters be settled at the ballot box — they apparently prefer the blockade instead. Fortunately, policy isn’t set by those who hijack public meetings or sabotage construction equipment.

Environmental and political leaders should make that clear by speaking out against Earth First!’s actions each time they threaten or intimidate another.

For their part, protesters should take note that while they have the right to express their opinion, they don’t have the right to do so on private property and in a manner that “costs corporations lots of money.”

THE COSTS ARE REAL

They should recognize that they are also costing all the rest of us a lot of money, too, and we resent it.

Earth First! argues that their tactics are acceptable because — well, because they are just so right on the issues.

Never mind those pesky legislative or regulatory processes — we know better and we are willing to destroy your property to prove it.

That is the same type of narcissism that helps some folks justify chopping off their neighbor’s head because they don’t read the same holy book.

Elected officials and environmental leaders are quick to speak up and support “green jobs” at press events, but are surprisingly silent when vandals attack logging or construction operations.

Let’s hope the next time that Earth First! shows its face in Maine, it is met with more than tacit silence. Our jobs and our economy depend on it.