Forest activist Julia Butterfly Hill, 24, has endured El Nino storms, helicopter harassment, a 10 day siege by company security, and the sorrow brought about by witnessing the destruction of a forest for nearly one year. Yet Butterfly continues to persevere. Perched high atop a 1000 year-old tree known as Luna, hers is the latest story in a decade long struggle to save the last of the ancient redwoods.
Butterfly has been 180 feet atop the redwood tree she calls Luna since December 10, 1997. Near the clear-cut at the origin of the massive mud slide which destroyed seven homes in the town of Stafford on New Years Day 1997, she’s shattered tree sit records while achieving press coverage in a way that has brought the plight of our ancient forests to the world – the New York Times, ABC News, and London Times have all sent reporters to visit her, she has been interviewed for European television and innumerable radio talk shows. She has also recently been featured in People Magazine (April 6, 1998) and Time Magazine (May 11, 1998).
Although Butterfly is relatively new to the Headwaters Forest campaign, having arrived in November 1997, she has become one of America’s most inspiring spokespersons for the protection of our forests and watersheds. Carrying on in a tradition began decades earlier in Northern California’s redwood forests, Butterfly exemplifies the central role of women in today’s environmental movement – combining a strong understanding of the current political aspects of the forest controversy with a deep spiritual connection to the forest and the tree she has called home.
“We are currently at a critical point in the history of the ancient forests,” says Julia. “Rooted deeply in love and respect, standing in solidarity, we are reclaiming power for the land and the people to which it belongs. We are a beacon of hope for our forests and community.”
That spirit of resistance and hope, along with deep spiritual convictions has brought Butterfly into the heart of the Headwaters Forest issue. Located on California’s north coast near the town of Eureka the Headwaters Forest complex and surrounding land contains the last and largest remaining unprotected groves of ancient redwood trees on Earth.
Under a recently filed Habitat Conservation Plan Charles Hurwitz’s Houston based Maxxam Corporation, owner of Pacific Lumber Company and Headwaters, proposes to harvest almost half of it’s remaining ancient trees, while continuing to operate on unstable slopes such as the one where Luna exists. Not only has her action saved Luna from a similar fate for the present, Butterfly’s tree occupation has come to symbolize the resistance of a community to irresponsible logging and serves as a plea to all people to stop the harvesting of old growth trees. Her sacrifice is living proof that the actions of one person do make a difference.
One Year and Beyond
As activists continue forward in the campaign to protect Northern California’s majestic forests and watersheds, the resolve of those working to sustain the tree-sit grows daily.
Still high atop Luna remains Julia Butterfly. Still food and supplies are delivered day by day, mile by mile, up into a tree which would not exist had it not been for the dedication of a small group of determined activists and the support of a community.
The Spirit of Luna lives on, inspiring each of us to find the strength within ourselves to do everything that we can to save the one of the last wild places left in our country, the magnificent Ancient Redwood forests.