October 1st, 2008
By John DeFore
Once upon a time, the only humans who lived in trees were such fictional folks as Tarzan and the hero of Italo Calvino’s charming romance The Baron in the Trees. That was before the “tree-sitting” phenomenon, in which activists climb into trees threatened by development and refuse to come down.
The population of real-life tree dwellers shrank this month as the last two participants in a 20-year-old protest agreed to leave their perch in Northern California redwoods.
As the story was reported locally, the protest ended after bankruptcy put the Pacific Lumber Company under new ownership. Humboldt Redwood Co., which took the company over, committed to a sustainable-harvest policy that the Associated Press says “promised to spare any redwood that sprouted before 1800 with a diameter of at least 4 feet. It also pledged to avoid clear-cutting, a practice that the timber giant aggressively practiced under its previous owner, Maxxam Inc.”
Humboldt president and chief forester Michael Jani trekked out to the occupied trees himself to make the promise explicit, and the activists are taking him at his word. Last week, the final tree-sitters in Humboldt County gave up their temporary homes, including a 300-foot tree at least 1,500 years old where 22-year-old Billy Stoetzer had lived (in a hammock shelter) for almost a year.
Organizers tell reporters that they’ll keep an eye on the area to ensure that promises are kept. Since Humboldt Redwood is owned in large part by the owners of The Gap, they’d have plenty of opportunities for high-profile protest if things were to change.
For more information about old growth redwood forests, see this National Park Service webpage.
(Photo: National Park Service.)