Up a Tree. Still?

Environmentalists have all but won their fight to save the Headwaters Forest. Somehow, that's not enough to bring Julia Hill down from her treetop perch.

The media attention has tapered off. PALCO has finished logging the ridge, leaving Luna alone, and last spring CEO John Campbell said, "We've decided to leave her in the tree."

As the window of public comment for the environmental management plan winds down to the deadline of Nov. 16, the activist community of Humboldt County is organizing another rally for mid-December. This time people won't be picketing the PALCO plant, or chaining themselves to Rep. Frank Riggs' desk. This rally will celebrate the one-year anniversary of Julia "Butterfly" Hill, the woman who won't come down from the tree.

And Butterfly has no intention of coming down. Despite the weather and PALCO's best efforts, she's had a peaceful year, probably one of the most spiritual years of her life. She has met and spoken with hundreds of people and made many new friends. She broke the previous world's record for tree-sitting after 43 days. Living among the branches of Luna has given her an opportunity to live the life of a tree-hugger -- literally. During one heavy day of logging near her, she wrapped her arms around the trunk and felt its sap ooze from the bark.

Butterfly doesn't seem to care what people think of her motivation or how it must change with the closing of the Headwaters deal. An internal clock drives her every move. Things happen when they happen, no matter how peculiar it may appear to the outside world. Now that the debate is essentially over, her once-symbolic presence in a tree seems a less political and more personal statement. She isn't living on such a transcendental plane that she doesn't know she must come down from Luna, but she feels she can't descend until she has done everything in her power to ensure the protection of the trees. Even if the world's media has moved on to other stories.

But when she does eventually lower the rope and set foot on the forest floor, life will be very different for Julia "Butterfly" Hill. For one thing, she will have to learn to stand up on her feet and navigate the two miles down the slope of the ridge.

"This hill's pretty intense,"she says, "and my strength has moved to my upper body, so unless I can find a way to walk down the hill on my hands, it's going to be an interesting experience


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