STAFFORD — Someone has taken a chainsaw to Luna, the redwood environmentalist Julia “Butterfly” Hill sat in for two years. Activists fear the thousand-year-old tree was mortally wounded.
Hill came down from the tree last December after Luna’s owners, Pacific Lumber, agreed to spare the tree as well as a surrounding buffer zone.
But over the Thanksgiving weekend, one of her supporters visiting the tree, in timberland about 250 miles north of San Francisco found a critical cut made by a chainsaw. Pictures posted on the Web site, http://www.earthfilms.org/luna.html, show a thin red scar running across the base of the huge redwood.
The tree, which reaches about 15 feet across and more than 18 stories high, is still standing but it is not clear if it will survive. A statement from Hill’s organization, Circle of Life Foundation, said the cut was deep and precise and made the tree extremely vulnerable to a windstorm.
An investigation by Humboldt County sheriff’s deputies revealed that a chainsaw was used to cut about 32 inches around the tree and about one-quarter of the way through the trunk.
Hill was traveling Monday and could not be reached for comment by The Associated Press. But in the statement, she described the attack as a personal blow.
“I feel this vicious attack on Luna as surely as if the chainsaw was going through me. Words cannot express the deep sorrow that I am experiencing but I am as committed as ever to do everything in my power to protect Luna and the remaining ancient forests,” she said.
A spokeswoman for Pacific Lumber did not return a telephone call from The Associated Press.
Hill climbed Luna on Dec. 10, 1997 for what she thought would be at most a three-week sit. Instead, she stayed up for two years, surviving howling winter storms and the fierce light of media attention as her quest drew worldwide attention.
She descended on Dec. 18, 1999, stepping into a whirlwind of activity as she gave interviews, promoted her book, made public appearances nationwide and fended off criticism from some in the environmental movement that she was more committed to herself than to the cause.