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>FEATURE-Woman stages protest atop giant old tree
>
> Tuesday, May 5, 1998 11:27 PM
>
> By Greg Frost
>
> HIGH IN A REDWOOD TREE, Humboldt County, Calif., May 6 (Reuters) - Like a
> cosmonaut on the Mir Space Station, Julia Hill has not set foot on Earth
> in nearly five months.
>
> But Hill, a 24-year-old environmental activist, has not been orbiting the
> planet. She has been perched atop an ancient redwood tree she calls
> "Luna" to save it from the chain saws of Pacific Lumber, a local timber
> company.
>
> Hers is the latest in a long line of battles fought over the fate of the
> last few old-growth groves of what may be the most majestic tree on
> Earth. An epic struggle, it pits timber companies seeking to harvest the
> precious wood against rabid, rag-tag environmental activists from the
> Earth First group.
>
> Since she began her tree sit on Dec. 10, Hill has braved a wicked rash of
> El Nino storms, endured taunts from angry lumberjacks and bathed just
> five times -- all from a bed-sized plywood tree platform 180 feet (60
> metres) above the ground. "I've gotten tired a lot. I'm a human, I'm not
> Superwoman. I've been beat to hell and back on more than one occasion,"
> Hill told a high-climbing reporter as she sat under the wind-whipped
> plastic tarp that covers her six-by-eight-foot (almost
> two-by-three-metre) platform.
>
> "But as long as I'm up here, it's a playing card for us. Because it's
> become such a big media event, Pacific Lumber's really starting to watch
> their Ps and Qs," she said. "As long as we keep it in the media it's
> leverage for us to try and give them that little extra nudge to save the
> grove."
>
> SCALING THE GIANT TREE
>
> Visitors who want to reach the top of Hill's redwood must use ropes to
> climb up on bark made spongy by soaking up months of El Nino-inspired
> rains. Those who make it to the top are treated not only to a
> breathtaking view of the Eel River Valley but also to a queasy feeling as
> Hill's small platform sways in the wind like a dinghy on an ocean swell.
>
> This odd swaying motion does not seem to affect Hill, who scampers about
> the top of the tree like a child on a jungle gym. As a chilly wind tugs
> at her stringy hair, Hill hops from limb to limb barefoot and without any
> safety device.
>
> "I took my shoes and my harness off about a week-and-a-half after I got
> up here," she said. "Luna -- any tree, for that matter -- really takes
> care of you if you just let it."
>
> Despite her meager surroundings, Hill maintains a manageable lifestyle.
> Her supporters bring her plenty of food and water and her arms get a fair
> amount of exercise as she hauls these sundries up to her platform using a
> supply rope.
>
> Hill maintains an active schedule, reading books, writing poetry and
> answering the letters she gets from around the country. She also cooks,
> and those who visit her at mealtime say her vegetarian cuisine is among
> the best they have tasted.
>
> Hill says the tree was named last year when a group of environmentalists
> discovered it under the light of a full moon and proceeded to erect
> Hill's platform in its upper branches.
>
> In many ways, her relationship with the tree is a reciprocal one. Just as
> she believes the tree cares for her, she has vowed not to set foot on the
> ground until she has done everything in her power to save it.
>
> Hill also says she talks to the tree and it talks back. The first time
> she heard Luna speak was during a particularly severe winter storm. As
> her platform shook violently and she was tossed around like a rag doll,
> she said she told Luna she was scared for her life and the tree told her
> she would be all right if she just let go of her fear.
>
> "Things were so intense that I didn't realize until after the
> conversation was over that I actually heard her in words for the first
> time -- that it wasn't just an innate sense," Hill said. "At that point
> ... I said, 'OK universe, take me. Do whatever you want to with me. I am
> giving every last part of myself to this.'"
>
> THE COMPANY LINE
>
> Pacific Lumber, a division of Houston-based MAXXAM Inc., owns the land
> Hill is living above and is none too pleased with her sit-in. Among other
> things, it accuses her of hurting the local economy by preventing workers
> from doing their jobs.
>
> "Because of her action and similar protests we have almost 300 people who
> are on curtailed work schedules -- they've either been laid off or
> they're working four days a week," company spokeswoman Mary Bullwinkel
> said.
>
> Although some Pacific Lumber employees have openly called Hill crazy,
> Bullwinkel says she will not judge the activist's mental state, but she
> says Hill is breaking the law by trespassing on Pacific Lumber property.
>
> "What if she decided to sit on your porch and prevent you from entering
> your house?" Bullwinkel asked. "That's what it's like and it gets
> frustrating."
>
> Pacific Lumber disputes nearly every one of Hill's charges, including her
> allegation that they staged a "siege" of her treetop abode, harassing her
> with air horns, spotlights and helicopters.
>
> They also dispute Earth First over the age of the tree. The activists say
> that by counting the rings on the stumps of trees near the one on which
> Hill is perched, they have estimated that Luna must be at least 1,000
> years old. But Pacific Lumber says there is no way to gauge the age of
> the tree by its size alone and they estimate it is at most 400 to 500
> years old.
>
> To Hill, questions about the age of the tree are a moot point. She says
> her main goal is to save the grove and that is why she has no idea when
> she is coming down.
>
> "There's going to be a point in time when I'm going to be more powerful
> on the ground than in the tree. If we don't find a way to save this grove
> and my spirit says, 'Julia, you've done everything you're going to do and
> now it's time to come on the ground and do more,' then I'm going to," she
> said.
>
> Hill worries that her message gets lost when people focus on her
> lifestyle. The question she is asked most is how she relieves herself
> (she uses a bucket), which annoys her because she feels it ignores the
> reason she is perched atop Luna.
>
> "People tend to flip out when I tell them that I've been going to the
> bathroom in a bucket at 180 feet and that I've had five sponge baths,"
> Hill said. "But when I remind them why I'm doing it, they see my point."
> ( (Amex:MXM) )
> Quote for referenced ticker symbols: MXM
> 1998, Reuters
>
>
> Copyright 1997 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or
> redistribution of Reuters content, including by framing or similar
> means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of
> Reuters. Reuters shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the
> content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.
>
>
>
>
>
David M. Walsh
P.O. Box 903
Redway, CA 95560
Office and Fax(707) 923-3015
Home (707) 986-1644



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