Activist vows to stay in treehouse until redwood is saved Woman becomes symbol in California timber fight

September 10, 1998|By ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

SCOTIA, Calif. -- From her aerie in the swaying top of a 1,000-year-old redwood, Julia "Butterfly" Hill tuned in on her portable radio last week to the latest development in the timber wars.

In the 11th hour of its closing session, the California Legislature agreed to pay $250 million to acquire the last privately held DTC stand of virgin redwood, dubbed Headwaters Forest.

Although Hill, 24, has become a symbol in the continuing battle by environmentalists to save old redwoods in Humboldt County, she said the deal thrashed out in Sacramento would have no effect on her day. She'd have an orange for dinner, washed down with a glass of organic Zinfandel. Then, by candlelight, tucked in her sleeping bag, she'd work on her book of poems.

And she wasn't coming down.

Hill is completing her seventh month perched on an 8-by-6-foot plywood platform, 180 feet above the ground in an ancient redwood named Luna.

"I'm staying here," she vows, until Pacific Lumber promises not to cut down her towering perch, which is not covered by the deal in Sacramento.

Last week, California lawmakers approved $250 million for the state's share (to be matched by the federal government) to buy the 7,500 acres of Headwaters Forest, along with two smaller redwood groves in the area. All summer, while political haggling in the state capital dragged on, activists have been playing what they call "cat and monkey" with loggers, climbing into redwoods whose blue paint stripe on the trunk shows the trees have been selected for cutting.

Hill went up to Luna's tarp-draped aerie Dec. 10, figuring she might spend two weeks in the sequoia that was named for the full moon shining when activists surreptitiously built the platform.

Instead, she says she has become bonded to Luna and won't come down until the lumber company promises to spare the tree. John Campbell, president of Pacific Lumber, says the company does not make deals with trespassers.

For a few weeks in winter, round-the-clock security guards cordoned off Luna to prevent Earth First, the environmental activist group, from resupplying her with food. According to Hill, a few of the loggers were almost as boorish as the "vile and disgusting" East Coast radio shock jocks who called her cell phone to taunt her.

Hill said she responded by quoting stanzas of her poetry, simple verses bearing on the themes of universal love and the unity of nature.

"I love the quiet and solitude up here," Hill says. "If people could only see the forest through my eyes, I don't think they'd let these redwoods be destroyed."

Pub Date: 9/10/98

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