Julia Butterfly Hill – February 18, 1974 –
In recent past summers concern over the forestlands of California have been owed to the threat and devastating destruction of wildfire. It wasn’t long ago, however, that the survival of the states trees wasn’t flame but the saw.
Near constant fog and high levels of annual precipitation on the coast of Northern California create the perfect habitat to incubate and grow the great coastal Redwood tree. It is such the ideal environment that some of the trees standing today are over 3,000 (yes, thousand) years old. With trees and thus lumber being the area’s largest natural resource, finding the balance between profit and preservation has been a balance not easily, if ever, attained.
So it was, in December of 1997, that the Pacific Lumber Company prepared to clearcut a swath of forest containing trees dating in age between 1,500 and 3,000 years old, known as Old Growth Redwood. On the market, these trees, as lumber, would command top market price.
When news of the company’s plan became public knowledge, the community, along with the environmental action group, Earth First! launched an effort to save the ancient forest. A young woman named Julia Butterfly Hill was one of the people inspired to action. Working with the community and Earth First! Julia Butterfly perched herself high into one of the trees which came to be known as Luna; a 1,500 year old ancient Redwood tree standing nearly 200 feet tall. Two 6×6 platforms were secured into the trees branches and it was there that Julia Butterfly prepared to spent , what she thought would be a there to four week stint, to save the tree and surrounding forest from harvest. December in Northern California is brutal, especially when living outdoors. Beneath a small tarp over her platform, Julia survived that winter – and the next two- bombarded with heavy, constant rainfall, very high winds, exposure to the elements, cold weather and threats and harassment from the lumber company.
Supported by the community and Earth First!, she was provided with food and supplies along with a cellular phone from which she broadcast from among the branches out to the community via a local radio station. It was there that the community heard of trees that were felled beside her, knocking Luna’s branches while Julia clung to them. Still, she persevered, living in Luna for 738 consecutive days. Finally in December of 1999, Julia, aided by Earth First, came to an agreement with Pacific Lumber to put Luna and the surrounded Old Growth forest into a land trust, ensuring the forests future survival. Luna still stands tall today, aided by steel supports after a malicious attack by anti-activists who put a 20 inch cut in her trunk. Preservationists have worked to ensure Luna’s health with regular “check-ups”.
Julia Butterfly continues to work as a peace and environmental proponent. She has written of her time in Luna in her memoir, The Legacy of Luna . Just released also is a children’s book, Luna and Me: The True Story of a Girl Who Lived in a Tree to Save a Forest, by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw. To learn more about Julia Butterfly Hill, visit Juliabutterfly.com