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Reservoir foes report attacks

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A trio of Escalante environmentalists say they are being harassed because of their opposition to a reservoir proposed nearby.

Tori Woodard, Patrick Diehl and Juniper Allison, members of the Escalante Wilderness Project, say someone smashed the windshield of their pickup truck with a baseball-size rock Thursday on the Hell's Backbone Road near Escalante.

They believe the act was motivated by media stories about the ongoing controversy over the proposed New Wide Hollow Reservoir, which they oppose.

The three were away from the truck helping Utah Environmental Congress staffers inventory roadless areas in the Dixie National Forest.

The three say the incident occurred against a background of "continuing threats and harassment." They say an Escalante resident told them a month ago to get out of Escalante or they would "get hurt." About a week ago, the severed heads of two rabbits were thrown over a fence into their side yard.

Diehl said he has experienced other acts such as intentional flooding and vandalization of the house when someone threw beer bottles through the front windows, tore up the garden, cut the telephone line and kicked in the door.

"There hasn't been any kind of public statement by any community leaders condemning the action," he said. "The people doing the vandalism are basically the enforcers, and the rest are condoning the enforcement by their silence."

In a press release, Diehl and his fellow environmentalists called on community leaders to condemn "the campaign of intimidation we have experienced for over a year." The trio's attitude has changed from a year ago, when they continually said they believed the acts of vandalism came from just a few people and that most people didn't support them.

Diehl said he reported the latest incident to a deputy sheriff, but Garfield County Sheriff Than Cooper said he personally doesn't know about it.

City Police Chief Dennis "Murdock" Isheim, the only police officer in the town of about 1,000, declined comment on the claim that Escalante community leaders have ignored the environmentalists' freedom of speech rights. Mayor Marjie Spencer, however, had no such qualms.

"I do condemn (the vandalism)," she said. "I don't want them hurt. . . . They have a right to their views."

E-mail: alan@desnews.com