Tree experts, the Pacific Lumber Co. and supporters of
activist Julia "Butterfly" Hill worked together to save a vandalized
old-growth redwood tree while clashes intensified during PL logging
of old-growth fir in the Mattole River Valley.
Wednesday morning, Hill visited the tree -- her home for two years
-- that had been cut with a large chainsaw by a vandal or vandals
probably within the past week. She viewed the huge metal stitches
that arborists used to stabilize the 200-foot-tall tree and praised
the PL employees who helped assemble the hardware.
Resting her hands on the trunk of the massive tree nicknamed "Luna",
Hill said, "I'm sorry I couldn't be here to put myself in front
of the chainsaw that hurt you."
Later, Hill denounced PL's logging practices, particularly of
old-growth Douglas fir in the Mattole. Conflict has been brewing
there during a three-week vigil and five protesters were arrested
Tuesday on charges of trespassing and resisting arrest.
Claims of loggers felling trees with protesters nearby may be
backed up by videotape reportedly taken at the scene. The short
tape The Times-Standard viewed did not show the tree actually falling.
However, the protester was near the tree for about three minutes
while a man cut a large tree with a chainsaw.
"I'm really surprised that people haven't been hurt or killed
out there," said Josh Brown of Earth First, who also claimed that
police stood idly by while fallers felled trees near protesters.
The Humboldt County Sheriff's Department has stepped up efforts
against the activists in the woods and those blocking gates. The
Sheriff's department would not answer the allegations after several
Activist David "Gypsy" Chain was killed during a logging protest
two years ago when a tree being felled landed on him.
California timber falling law states that people in the vicinity
of a tree being cut need to be warned and out of reach of falling
trees. Fallers must stop saw motors when giving the warning.
After speaking with Mattole logging supervisors, PL spokeswoman
Mary Bullwinkel said that activists have been playing a dangerous
game of cat-and-mouse, leaping into the path of trees about to be
felled, and apparently videotaping the feat.
"We obviously are operating on our state-approved harvest plan
and are adhering to the guidelines of our (logging rules)," Bullwinkel
Protesters are trespassing to disrupt a plan that the California
Supreme Court refused to stop, Bullwinkel said.
Environmentalists and Mattole citizens were denied a stay by the
court this month. Environmentalists have said they want to buy as
much as 14,000 acres in the area, including about 3,000 acres of
old-growth. How much money, if any, has been raised for this effort
is not known and PL maintains that it is not a willing seller, needing
logs for its mills more than money.
Last week, PL called into question activists' techniques of blocking
roads with rock walls and giant holes, saying that these could cause
erosion and damage to salmon-supporting creeks the activists say
they are trying to protect. PL said that plugged culverts and altered
drainage ditches were potentially very harmful. Activists denied
using these tactics.
This week, PL pick-up trucks carrying loggers and sheriff's vehicles
driven to the area to round up protesters created ruts that push
the limits of the company's logging guidelines, the California Department
of Forestry said.
Were they to be more rutted, area forester John Marshall said,
the forestry department would consider issuing the company a violation.
Marshall also said that the company would be cited whether law
enforcement vehicles or company vehicles were to create significant
Heavier rain Tuesday night and Wednesday will hold off any other
logging for 48 hours after the rain stops.
That storm threatened to topple the tree Hill occupied for nearly
two years, boasting gusts of 40 miles per hour or more. Tree experts
worked under lights into the night Tuesday to brace the tree before
the storm hit. Hours before, the tree had been wobbling precariously.
The cut to the tree's 38-foot-diameter trunk is now partly filled
with metal plating and held together by large metal braces made
of brackets and bolts.
"I've been praying that the person who did this would seek me
out," Hill said. "They might not -- but I'd like to ask them why."
The vandal or vandals slashed the 19-foot-long scar into the tree
that has been estimated to be 600 to 1,000 years old. The tree and
three acres surrounding it are held in trust by the Whitethorn-based
Sanctuary Forest, after Hill and her supporters purchased the tree
Hill said that the logging of old-growth in the Mattole is a far
more serious concern than the attack on the single tree and said
that division will not find an answer to ongoing conflicts.
"The person that cut Luna has enough anger for us all," Hill said.
Time-Standard photographer Shawn Walker contributed to this report.