She lived in a tree for two years to save her Luna
Last updated 12/28/2019 at 7:09pm
Her name is Julia Butterfly Hill, and she was born in 1974 in Mount Vernon, Missouri. Her father was a traveling minister, and Hill, with her two brothers and mother, toured the country in a 32-foot camper while her father preached the gospel. She spent many days of her early childhood playing outside, enjoying the woodlands and rivers near towns where her father was preaching.
When she was six, Hill was hiking with her family, and a butterfly landed on her finger and stayed there for the entire hike. She felt touched by this happening and took Butterfly as her middle name.
As she grew up, Hill traveled the country on her own and took various jobs as needed. In 1996, when she was 22 years old, tragedy struck Hill when her car was smashed by a drunken driver and the steering wheel of the car penetrated her skull.
It took a year of intense physical and cognitive therapy before she could walk and talk normally again. This event was life-changing, and it turned her in a new direction to make a positive impact for her future.
In 1997, she ventured out West and found herself in Northern California amongst the giant redwoods. She connected with a group of “tree-sitters,” who were protesting the clear-cut logging of redwoods by the Pacific Lumber Company, which owned the land where this stand of giants grew.
Her group of environmentalists decided the best way to bring attention to the world about clear-cutting entire mountainsides of redwoods was to have a tree-sit up in the trees, and Hill decided she would do it.
Her support group rallied around the idea and experienced tree climbers used block and tackle to climb up an 18-story, 1,000-year-old redwood tree and construct a pair of 6-feet by 6-inche platforms covered with a green tarp at the top. She nicknamed the tree “Luna.”
Hill was dedicated to the cause and lived in Luna for over two years in protest of the devastating redwood logging that was happening in Northern California.
During that time spent up in Luna, Hill battled illness, harassment from overhead helicopters, freezing temperatures and a siege from security guards hired by Pacific Lumber to harass her. She encountered torrential rains and fierce winds from an El Nino winter; snow, hail, sleet, thunder and lightning storms haunted her, but she kept focus on saving Luna and the other redwoods from being cut down.
A ground crew supported her daily with food and supplies that she pulled up to her platform, 180 feet from the forest floor. She heated her meals on a tiny propane stove and tried to keep warm in her sleeping bag day and night which was extremely trying for her, but she gained ecological strength and grew into a force of which is very rare and not to be messed with.
She had a small solar-powered cellphone and made contact with reporters and journalists from both Newsweek and People magazines about her commitment to Luna and her cause in protecting these ancient redwood trees in the future.
With all the negative publicity that the timber company was getting, they finally agreed to a resolution that preserved a 200-foot buffer zone around Luna and other old-growth redwood trees surrounding the beloved tree. A large settlement was made and donated to the Humboldt State University for sustainable forestry research. And after that settlement was reached, Hill descended from Luna to put her feet on the forest floor once again in December 1999.
Despite this victory, Luna’s fate was not intact, and a year after Hill came down, someone vandalized the tree with a chain saw, which left a 32-inch-deep gash across half of the mighty tree’s trunk. When this damage was discovered, arborists rushed to stabilize the historic tree with a series of cables and braces to save Luna, and they were successful.
Hill’s story really hits home with me. In the 1974 floods, the Eel River was 30 feet above normal, and whole communities were washed away at the river’s edge. Highway 101 through redwood country was severely damaged and cut off.
When I saw the devastation of the floods on TV, I packed my Jeep full of canned goods, clothes and supplies and headed north to spend a month working with the Salvation Army flood victims in Garberville.
With this experience, I also became immersed in these giant redwoods and fell in love with the mighty Sequoia sempervirens, which is our state tree.
Hill’s experience tree-sitting with Luna was just the beginning of her activism, and she wrote a bestselling book, “The Legacy of Luna,” which is a great read
I was fortunate to hear her speak when she came to San Diego and gave a presentation at San Diego State University, with my wife and some tree friends. When this barefooted lean young lady walked out onto the stage, the air was energized as her story was going to be riveting, and so it was.
That evening’s highlight was having her sign her book “The Legacy of Luna” for me, which I cherish dearly. She has shared her tree-sit story with countless nature groups and causes around the world, sharing hope and understanding that our world has many environmental hurdles to overcome.
Back in the 90s, there was another tree-sit conducted by Daryl Hannah of Hollywood fame, who was trying to help save a 14-acre community garden in South Los Angeles. I went and talked with Hannah, who was trying to use her notoriety to hold on to a community food garden that was slated to be bulldozed to make room for a large industrial warehouse.
This garden was the food source for fresh nourishment to hundreds of families for many years in the area, but “big-brother” won in that case. Sad to say, Hannah was handcuffed and removed from the garden, and the food garden was torn down and lost.
There are many stories to tell of what people have done to the earth, and now people are seeing and experiencing some major alterations occurring to this little blue marble floating in space. Be strong and stand up like the young Swede Greta Thunberg and be an earth warrior for our planet.
Please join in, however you can, to rekindle and nourish the earth that we have plagued with so many wrongs. The global ecological time clock is ticking, and it is said that it is ticking faster than predicted from the scientific community and now is the time to act.
We have one earth, and that’s our home. Let us be kinder and help make a difference. The Sempervirens Fund, Save the Redwoods, is great group that has saved and dedicated many areas for preservation and protection in the Redwood country of Northern California.
Roger Boddaert, aka Maker of Natural Gardens and the Tree Man of Fallbrook, can create a special eco-friendly landscape for you with his creative talents and years of working with the earth. He can be reached at (760) 728-4297 or [email protected]