On December 10, 1997, twenty three year old Julia "Butterfly" Hill began her fight by ascending a 200-foot redwood tree that was doomed to destruction. She did not come down for almost two years.
After a nearly fatal car accident in 1996, and almost a year of medical treatment, Julia Hill proceeded on a pilgrimage of sorts. With her priorities in life drastically changed, she headed west, eventually reaching the magnificent Californian redwood forest, where she was struck with awe.
Julia's newfound love however, was destined for destruction.
Julia's tree, which she named "Luna", was situated in an old growth redwood forest on the north west coast of California. The forest, owned by the state, had been given to the Pacific Lumber Company for removal. Julia, in an effort to make the world conscious of the plight of the ancient forests made the decision to conduct a sit-in. Planning to only remain in the tree at most a month or two, her stay spanned 738 days.
For over two years, she battled the fierce pacific storms brought on by El Nino, the logging companies, and the United States government for the tree she loved so dearly, at one point, even waiting out a ten-day siege of air-horns, barking dogs, and threats from the lumber companies. Her tree sit broke records and drew attention to her cause, sparking many people into taking an interest in saving the 3% of ancient and priceless redwoods that remain.
While still living in the redwood, Julia and other environmental activists founded the Circle of Life Foundation that promotes environmentalism, and love for the earth. The foundation calls for people to save the planet through education and peaceful action.
Her efforts effectively delayed the cutting of Luna and the surrounding forest. With the help of steel workers and environmental groups, she successfully negotiated an agreement that would permanently prevent lumber companies from cutting Luna as well as a three-mile radius of forest as a buffer area. The agreement would make it illegal to cut any tree in the designated area.
With her goal accomplished, and her dear Luna safe, on December 18, 1999, Julia descended from her treetop home. Little known before her time in the redwood, the world now welcomed her as a heroine and she became a strong voice for the environmental movement. After her descent, she continued her fight for the earth through the Circle of Life Foundation, speeches and special appearances, and her newly published book, The Legacy of Luna, which tells of her experiences over the two years in Luna's branches.
Over Thanksgiving weekend in 2000, tragedy struck. Sometime during the night, an unknown vandal took a chainsaw to the thousand-year-old Luna's trunk. The damage left only about 40% of the tree's system intact, although the efforts thus far to stabilize the tree and prevent death have been successful. On this, Julia "Butterfly" Hill commented, "Although symbols can be attacked, what they stand for can never be destroyed. Whenever Luna falls into the forest floor, she will feed and grow new life and what she stands for will live on forever." Despite this setback, Julia continues her fight and remains hopeful for the future.