December 18, 1999 Web posted at: 11:08 p.m. EST (0408 GMT)
After 2 years, tree-sitting woman descends, claiming victory
>From staff and wire reports
STAFFORD, California (AP) -- Environmental activist Julia "Butterfly" Hill
is claiming victory in her battle to save the 600-year-old redwood that was
her home for more than two years.
Hill ended her tree-sitting protest Saturday, lowering herself from her
perch 18 stories high in the branches of the redwood she called Luna.
"I understand to some people, I'm just a dirty, tree-hugging hippie, but I
can't imagine being able to take a chain saw to something like this," Hill
said shortly after kneeling and kissing the ground at the tree's massive
Several activists, friends and supporters were on hand to congratulate Hill
with hugs and kisses.
Hill climbed the tree on December 10, 1997, to protest logging. She thought
then that she might stay a month, but she didn't come down for 738 days.
The protest ended with environmentalists agreeing to pay the property
owners, Pacific Lumber Co., $50,000 for the redwood and a surrounding
buffer zone. The company is expected to donate the money to Humboldt State
University for forestry research programs.
"It was so cold and wet this morning," Hill said. "I had to laugh, because
I was so thankful that I don't have to sit through another winter."
The weather was one reason Pacific Lumber said it had struck a deal with
"I think the key part of our reaching this decision is her own safety,"
said John Campbell of Pacific Lumber. "She has been up there for two years.
We're approaching another severe winter. We're concerned about her health
and welfare, as we have been from the very beginning," he said.
Hill said, "There is no way to be in the presence of these ancient beings
and not be affected. There's something more than a profit, and that's life."
Company seeks to move forward with harvesting
In a statement, Pacific Lumber said it agreed to the deal with Hill "in an
effort to end a community controversy and concentrate ... efforts upon
implementing a viable harvesting program" under the terms of the Headwaters
Agreement reached among the company and the state and federal governments.
The region where the tree is located has been the site of numerous logging
protests focusing on the Headwaters Forest Complex, a 94-square mile area
that includes thousands of acres of ancient redwoods.
In March, Pacific Lumber, the state of California and the federal
government signed the agreement to turn about 10,000 acres of the forest,
including nearly 5,000 acres of redwoods, into a public preserve.
State and federal officials agreed to pay $480 million to Pacific Lumber's
parent company, MAXXAM Inc., owner of the Headwaters Forest, in an effort
to save it from logging.
Environmentalists protested the deal, claiming it offered too much money
for too few trees and failed to protect other so- called "old growth"
Pacific Lumber was to go ahead with logging in other areas under a habitat
conservation plan intended to save both jobs and endangered forest.
Tree sitting had its ups and downs
Hill was supported during her protest by a group of fellow activists who
appeared at the base of the tree almost nightly. They brought food and
other necessities, which she would reel up by bucket to her treehouse.
In the 6-foot by 8-foot treehouse, Hill spent her days reading, writing
poetry and cooking vegetarian food. She kept fit by climbing the tree's
massive, spreading branches.
The treehouse had no outhouse, and Hill said many people asked how she
adapted to that. According to Hill, she sent her refuse down in a bucket,
and her supporters hauled it away.
But Hill was not totally removed from civilization. Sometimes members of
her group would climb up to visit her. And she had a cellular phone, which
she used to communicate her protest to media around the world.
Her celebrity grew. TV crews traveled from Germany, Israel and England for
tree-top interviews with Hill, and she received supportive visits from
musicians Bonnie Raitt and Joan Baez.
Hill, who's 25, said she hasn't decided what to do next in life, although
she said her experience encouraged her to continue to perform works of
Correspondent Don Knapp, The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to
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