Ned Ludd Books published the first two editions, with Abbzug Press publishing a third edition. The book was first published in 1985.
Much of the inspiration for the book, as well as the term "monkeywrenching", came from Edward Abbey's 1975 novel The Monkey Wrench Gang. Other inspiration for the book likely came from the 1972 book Ecotage!, which was published by the group Environmental Action and was in turn inspired by the actions of an activist in the Chicago, Illinois area who called himself "The Fox", and engaged in such vigilante actions to protect the environment as plugging smokestacks. The Fox named after the Fox River northwest of Chicago was an avid historical boater whom educated and demonstrated native American and early trapper fishing and boating techniques. The Fox was radicalized to be an founder mentor of the Earth Liberation Front movement after witnessing toxic dumping into the Fox River over decades which polluted the river to near-death. The Fox became infamous after dumping a bucket of said toxic waste upon the desk of a Stone Container Corporation executive in Chicago. The Fox was rumored also to plug drainage pipes from toxic industrial plants from his canoe along the Fox River. Much of the actual content for Ecodefense came from the "Dear Ned Ludd" column in the newsletter of the group Earth First! during the 1980s.
“Tentatively called Ecodefense: A Handbook on the Militant Defense of the Earth, the publication was to be a radical environmental version of William Powell's Anarchist Cookbook. In its final form, brought out by Foreman's own Ned Ludd Books (named after the nineteenth-century British worker who destroyed labor-saving machinery), Ecodefense: A Field Guide To Monkeywrenching gave practical, detailed instructions on how to decommission bulldozers, pull out survey stakes, spike trees, and generally harass and delay resource industry plans. It was an immediate success, and its popularity led Oregon's Willamette National Forest supervisor Michael Kerrick to denounce the book in a white paper presented at a congressional hearing, in which he threatened to 'close the entire [national forest logging] area to unauthorized entry' if the activities described in the book took place. Kerrick soon thereafter introduced the controversial policy of closing national forests to the public whenever environmental protests were expected.
Notes and references
- Burning Rage of a Dying Planet. by Craig Rosebraugh. Lantern Books, New York. pg20
- Michael Kerrick, "Ecotage From Our Perspective" (http://www.foresthistory.org/ASPNET/Publications/region/6/willamette/chap6.htm)
- Earth First!
- Earth Liberation Front
- Ecotage! [book]
- Operation Backfire - FBI operation initiated against environmentalists