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A vandal claiming to be part of a domestic terrorist group known for destroying property to protect the environment recently targeted the Kenyon Noble Lumber & Hardware store being constructed in north Bozeman.

The vandal, or vandals, tied the crime to the radical environmentalist group Earth Liberation Front by spray-painting "ELF" on construction equipment at the store's building on West Oak Street, according to police records.

An electrical box, two forklifts, a man lift and several bags of cement were damaged, and the loss totaled about $3,000, said Don Stueck, project manager for Martel Construction.

The destroyed equipment was discovered Monday and fixed within an hour so that construction could resume, Stueck said.

ELF is an underground movement with no leadership, membership or official spokesperson, according to the organization's Web site. The alleged eco-terrorists have been accused of setting fire to houses, sport-utility vehicles, a ski lodge and a lumber yard.

"There's really no way of knowing whether it's a valid ELF job or not," Bozeman Police Sgt. Colton Schumacher said. "I don't know if it's them."

ELF doesn't have a history of violence or vandalism in Bozeman, Schumacher said, and the damage was minuscule compared to other crimes ELF has been accused of.

Police don't have any suspects.

Rick Ogle, co-owner of Kenyon Noble, said the lumber company has never been threatened or vandalized before. He declined to comment any further because he had just heard about the incident.

A local Sierra Club representative didn't approve of the violent form of environmental protest and has no idea whether ELF members are forming in Bozeman.

"Our cause doesn't make gains this way," said Kathryn Hohmann, senior regional representative for the Sierra Club. "We think this is pretty childish and a stupid prank."

Tom Skeele, executive director of American Wildlands, said radical groups like ELF hurt environmentalists because people associate them with legitimate organizations that do valuable work.

"It's a right for everybody to demonstrate, but vandalism is against the law," he said. "I think there are an awful lot of people that that kind of behavior turns off."

Stueck said it could have been worse - none of the windows were broken and nothing was lit on fire.

"I think it was just some kids screwing around," he said. "It was homecoming weekend."

Stueck added that it has been 10 years since anyone has damaged a Martel Construction site and that ELF has never been heard from in Bozeman.

"I don't know if we really have any of those people around here," he said.

The vandal or vandals could be charged with felony criminal mischief because the value of the damage exceeds $1,000.

Ted Sullivan is at tsullivan@dailychronicle.com