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Go Back: Home > Earth Island Journal > Issues > Autumn 2001

Luna Still Stands

Circle of Life Foundation

Luna, the ancient redwood where environmental activist Julia Butterfly Hill lived for more than two years, has survived an illegal chainsaw cut that was discovered last fall.

Since the attack, the critically injured tree has received an extraordinary outpouring of CPR – "Conservation, Preservation and Restoration," a phrase coined by the late archdruid David Brower.

A team of a dozen tree experts, including a number of world-renowned arborists, canopy biologists, and foresters (backed up by architects, engineers and scientific advisors from around the world) have created lasting solutions that will keep the symbolic tree living and standing tall. Even Pacific Lumber employees pitched in, fabricating the steel braces used to stabilize Luna against the onslaught of the first winter storms.

This diversified think tank has produced stunning results that should allow the resilient redwood to continue living for hundreds of years as a global beacon of hope and endurance.Julia Butterfly Hill reflects, "I feel like this wound in Luna is symbolic of the deep wound in our world. It’s going to take people with diverse backgrounds coming together in unity and love to heal the wound in the tree and our world."

Bill DeVos, an award-winning arborist who specializes in securing historic trees, traveled from Vermont to work with Luna’s team of experts. "Luna has been an inspiration," says DeVos, "We have no tree species of this stature on the East Coast."

Dennis Yni-guez, president of the American Society of Consulting Arborists and the coordinator of the Luna medical team, comments: "This chainsaw attack has been a grievous injury to Luna. Nonetheless, she is a coast redwood – one of the world’s most resilient trees – and 40 percent of her systems are still intact. We can expect significant dieback in her canopy, but we can also expect her to stand tall for many more years."

Civil engineer Steve Salzman explained the structural integrity inherent in a redwood tree. "From a structural point of view, the trunk of an old-growth redwood tree is overdesigned. That is why redwoods more often tip over than snap off."

The damage to 60 percent of Luna’s trunk has greatly diminished its ability to withstand winds and seismic loading. "We reinforced Luna with cables and steel bracing to replace some of the strength that has been lost," Salzman said, admitting that no amount of human engineering would ever be able "to fully replicate the original strength embodied in the dynamic living system of a redwood tree."

The medical team working on Luna designed a non-invasive cabling system that attaches Luna’s massive trunk to three other nearby trees. The grove was protected a year ago and deeded to the Sanctuary Forest land trust under the Luna Protection Agreement signed by Julia Hill and Pacific Lumber.

Canopy biologists attached a collar 100 feet up in Luna and shot cables to nearby trees fitted with similar collars. These sister trees will act as anchor points to stabilize Luna.

Humboldt State University biology professor Steve Sillett has discovered some of the world’s tallest redwood trees. The canopy of ancient redwoods is his laboratory. Steve and his colleague Jim Spickler were struck by the intricate beauty of Luna’s crown. "I can’t believe Julia lived there for over two years," Steve marveled. "She obviously lived lightly on the tree."

Some arborists have suggested cutting off weak limbs in the crown because dieback is expected. Julia, however, does not believe these extreme measures are needed. "Based on my experience living in the canopy during raging wind storms," Julia laughed, "I know that Luna can prune herself just fine."

Julia Butterfly Hill’s Circle of Life Foundation [PO Box 1940, Redway, CA 95560] will be relocating from the redwoods to a location closer to the Bay Area so we can better utilize the region’s tremendous resources, especially the services provided by our fiscal sponsor Earth Island Institute.

   

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