SCOTIA, Calif. – After more than 20 years of protests, the last two people living in the giant redwoods of Northern California were climbing down for good, convinced by the new owners of the forest that the ancient trees would be spared from the saw.
Still, the tree sitters looked rather lost.
Having lived nearly 200 feet off the ground for 11 months, Nadia Berg – who calls herself Cedar – seemed unsure of her footing on the lush forest floor of Humboldt County’s Nanning Creek grove. Cedar had made herself at home in a tree dubbed Grandma, a massive double redwood joined at the base, and had grown accustomed to the whispers and ways of the woods.
“Being here, for me, hasn’t been a sacrifice,” said the 22-year-old Alberta native, still in her harness after rappelling down Grandma last week for the final time. “I feel so honored that I could be here for the trees.”
Berg’s neighbor, Billy Stoetzer, a 22-year-old activist from the Missouri Ozarks, came down last week, too, after living for nearly a year in a hammock-like shelter in the branches of Spooner, a 300-foot mammoth at least 1,500 years old.
With that, the great timber wars of the North Coast came to an end.
It was a long, twilight struggle that redefined environmental activism and introduced the American public to a new type of civil disobedience: tree-sitting.
So quietly did the truce happen that almost no one involved can believe it. But the drawn-out, sometimes violent, battles between Pacific Lumber Co., the largest private owner of old-growth redwoods, and environmental activists who flocked here to save the trees, are history. Pacific Lumber has new owners, a new name – Humboldt Redwood Co. – and a new pledge to protect old trees, some of which were around more than 2,000 years.
The end began a few weeks ago, when Michael Jani, the president and chief forester of the new Humboldt Redwood Co., hiked into the woods to meet the tree-sitters.
“I went out, looked at the trees, looked at the stand of trees that were around them, and I explained to them that under our policy, we would not be cutting those trees,” said Jani, a 35-year veteran of logging companies.
Environmentalists are cautiously optimistic that the company will do as it promises. So for weeks, the tree-sitters at the Nanning Creek and Fern Gully groves have been clearing out their encampments, removing their platforms and figuring out what to do with the rest of their lives.