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December 10, 2023

On December 10, 1997 Julia Hill Climbed a 1000-Year-Old Redwood Tree and Lived There for 738 Days

Julia Butterfly Hill (born February 18, 1974) is an American environmental activist and tax redirection advocate. She is best known for having lived in a 200-foot (61 m)-tall, approximately 1000-year-old California redwood tree for 738 days between December 10, 1997, and December 18, 1999. Hill lived in the tree, affectionately known as Luna, to prevent Pacific Lumber Company loggers from cutting it down. She ultimately reached an agreement with the lumber company to save that tree.

One summer night in 1996, Hill was driving a car that was hit from behind by a drunk driver. As a result of the near-fatal accident, she had difficulty speaking and walking for almost a full year. During her recovery process, Hill reevaluated her priorities and took an interest in environmental preservation.

“It took 10 months of physical and cognitive therapy to recover from the wreck, and during that time I realized I wanted to find a more powerful purpose for being here on this planet,” Hill told Grist magazine in 2006.

“After I was released from my last doctor, I went on a road trip with friends which led me to California, which led me to the redwoods,” she said.

After recuperating from her accident, Hill took a road trip to California and attended a reggae fundraiser to save the forests. A group of “front-liners” had been rotating tree sitters in and out of giant redwoods in Humboldt County every couple of days to stave off Pacific Lumber Co. loggers who were clear-cutting. The trees were on a windswept ridge overlooking the community of Stafford, south of Scotia. On New Year’s Eve 1996, a landslide in Stafford caused by clearcut logging by Pacific Lumber Company (Maxxam) on steep slopes above the community resulted in most of the community being buried up to 17 feet (5.2 m) in mud and tree debris; eight homes were completely destroyed. Organizers wanted someone to stay in the tree one week. “Nobody else would volunteer so they had to pick me,” said Hill.

Originally, Hill was not officially affiliated with any environmental organization, deciding by herself to undertake civil disobedience. Soon, Hill was actively supported by Earth First!, among other organizations, and by volunteers.

On December 10, 1997, Hill ascended a 1,000-year-old lightning-struck redwood tree named Luna, also referred to as the “Stafford Giant” due to its proximity to the small community of Stafford, to a height of 180 feet (55 m). As the Moon was rising at the time, activists chose the name Luna, the Latin word for Moon, to commemorate the event:
“An hour and a half after reaching the base of the tree, we got the last of the provisions up. By then it was midnight. Finally, I was able to put on the harness and ascend Luna. It seemed an exhausting eternity before I reached the top. When I finally got there, I untangled myself from the harness and looked around for a place to collapse.”
Hill lived on two 6-by-4-foot (1.8 by 1.2 m) platforms for 738 days. Hill learned many survival skills while living in Luna, such as “seldom washing the soles of her feet, because the sap helped her feet stick to the branches better.” Hill used solar-powered cell phones for radio interviews, became an “in-tree” correspondent for a cable television show, and hosted TV crews to protest old-growth clear cutting. With ropes, Hill hoisted up survival supplies brought by an eight-member support crew. To keep warm, Hill wrapped herself tight in a sleeping bag, leaving only a small hole for breathing. For meals, Hill used a single-burner propane stove. Throughout her ordeal, Hill weathered freezing rains and 40 mph (64 km/h) winds from El NiƱo, helicopter harassment, a ten-day siege by company security guards, and attempted intimidation by angry loggers.

A resolution was reached in 1999 when the Pacific Lumber Company agreed to preserve Luna and all trees within a 200-foot (61 m) buffer zone. In exchange, Hill agreed to vacate the tree. In addition, the $50,000 that Hill and other activists raised during the cause was given to the logging company, as stipulated by the resolution. The money was then donated to Humboldt State University as part of the agreement for research into sustainable forestry.

1 comment:

  1. I don't have many heroes in life — don't believe in heroes — but Julia 'Butterfly' Hill is one of them.




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