The Coastal Post - February, 1999

Headwaters Forest, Julia Butterfly, A Year In A Tree

By Stephen Simac

Does a redwood tree falling in a clear cut forest make any news if no media covers it? Redwood trees, a thousand years old, which could live for another millennium are being turned into fences which will rot in decades, or pulped into newspapers which are old by tomorrow. Will we grieve the loss of ancient forests which would awe our grandchildren, for the economic benefits of a few short sighted termite people?

Julia Butterfly, has spent a year in one redwood tree, hoping to save thousands more acres of forests from rotting rapidly. Last winter she climbed a hundred feet up into a small platform in a tree she calls Luna, deep in the Headwaters Forest, home to several of the few remaining ancient groves of redwoods.

In the last century over 95% of old growth redwoods have been felled already, with no concern for saving a natural wonder of the world. Redwood forests are among the largest and oldest living species on Earth. Humans have a brief history in comparison, a termite people for the most part, arrogant and destructive.

Sacred Groves-Tree Top Druid

Julia Butterfly's courage to act on her belief that these trees are sacred and must be saved is an amazing story even to people who disagree with her. One lumberjack who tried to make her life miserable, by cursing her and cutting trees nearby, instead fell in love with her and her cause. He moved to Alaska, but still writes to her.

Hundreds of people, including schoolchildren write to her and she writes back. She's got a cell phone and has been interviewed many times on radio and television, , and her presence has turned a potential clearcut into an international cause.

Her charisma and intelligence have made her story famous although the local newspapers have barely covered what's happening only a hundred miles north. The redwood curtain is closed because newspapers need lumber companies which supply their newsprint.

That same curtain has been virtually closed on the 1990 bombing of EarthFirst! activists Judy Barry and Darryl Cherney, and their case against the FBI and the Oakland Police for violating their civil rights. The suspicious activities of those agencies before and after the bombing of the redwood activists, has been covered by the Coastal Post more heavily than any of the local papers.

The murder of David Chain by a lumberjack who dropped a tree on him last fall, the videotaped eyelid swabbing of protesters with pepperspray by Humboldt County police, a local judge's ruling in favor of their torture and the ongoing struggle to save Headwaters forest have been briefly covered, but poorly.

Pacific Lumber was bought out by Maxxam, Inc. headed by Charles Hurwitz of Texas, who lost billions in the S&L; failures of the 1980's. He was never held accountable for the losses, and went on to buy PL. Maxxam tripled the cutting rate of Pacific Lumber to pay off the debt, dipped into the lumberjack's pension funds, and recently had PL's logging license revoked for the year because of hundreds of violations.

Feinstein's Folly

To reward him for his ripoffs of taxpayers, foresters, and the environment, Senator Diane Feinstein crafted a generous bailout package, again at taxpayer expense.

Her brokered deal would pay Maxxam $380 million for 8,000 acres, half of them logged. The company's own estimates for the dollar value of their entire 210,000 acres is only $320 million. What a deal, and besides they would be allowed to discard the Endangered Species Act and log according to their own Habitat Conservation Plan. More trees would be cut, more profits, but it would destroy most fish habitat because it would allow cutting nearly to stream banks with too narrow setbacks.

In a world which holds only profits as sacred, one young woman, barely less fragile than the butterfly she has taken as a totem, holds onto a different vision of what is holy, what is sacred and what must be preserved if we are to survive along with the ancient forests.

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