Julia Butterfly Hill in Luna, 1998. © by Stuart Franklin

Julia Butterfly Hill in Luna, 1998

IN 1996, WHEN JULIA BUTTERFLY HILL first stepped foot into the ancient redwood forest in California, she was overcome with awe by these ancient trees and the abundance of life within them. She soon learned that the majority of these 1,000-to- 3,000-year-old trees had been logged for profit. Julia wanted to do something to help the trees left standing. She learned of tree-sitting, a peaceful act of civil disobedience in which a protester sits in a tree to protect it.

In October 1997, a forest activist from Earth First! free-climbed into an ancient redwood—Luna—to protect it from being cut down. Luna stands 200 feet tall near the top of a steep hillside. The tree’s grove was marked for harvest by the Pacific Lumber Company. One year prior, the same logging company clear-cut a nearby hillside, which then crumbled in a mudslide, destroying many homes. Knowing the tree-sitter would not last long without a platform or supplies, a team of eleven fellow activists hiked up to Luna by the light of a full moon, climbed 180 feet into Luna’s canopy, and secured a platform with ropes. It was on this night the group named the ancient redwood Luna and the famous tree-sit began.

During the first two months of the tree-sit, many people, including Julia Butterfly Hill, sat for a few days at a time in Luna’s branches. Then, on December 10, 1997, Julia volunteered to sit in Luna for three to four weeks and, with the support of her ground team, ended up staying for two years. She was twenty-three years old.

Julia endured personal fears, intimidation from loggers, fierce storms, frostbite, and more. Despite these challenges Julia remained in the tree, becoming a powerful voice for sustainable forestry and the integrity of the planet.

In December of 1999, the Pacific Lumber Company and Julia Butterfly Hill signed an agreement to protect Luna and the surrounding grove. Sanctuary Forest, a nonprofit organization whose primary focus is land and water restoration and conservation, became entrusted with the responsibility of monitoring the Luna preserve in perpetuity. On December 18, 1999, after 738 days, Julia climbed down from Luna’s arms. Since then, she has spent more than fifteen years as an inspirational speaker, teaching people about the environment and how to help preserve the earth for future generations.

Julia Butterfly Hill’s peaceful activism and dedication to serving our earth inspires me deeply. After reading her memoir, The Legacy of Luna: The Story of a Tree, a Woman, and the Struggle to Save the Redwoods, I knew I wanted to make a picture book that would bring her courageous story to children. Her message is simple: each and every one of us can make a difference. I chose to tell of Julia’s time in Luna in my own way—simplifying a very complex, intense, and political journey and depicting her as a girl. The essence of Julia’s story remains; it is a story of strength, endurance, teamwork, commitment, and love. Luna still stands to this day as a beacon of hope for the ancient forests, and Julia made that possible.

While working on the book, I had the opportunity to spend an enchanting day at the base of Luna, listening to many stories from Luna’s caretaker, Stuart Moskowitz. My family and I camped in the redwoods—breathing deeply, lying on the forest floor, painting, and playing with banana slugs. Luna and the Redwood Forest fueled my illustrations with detail and magic.

A portion of my earnings from this book will be donated to Sanctuary Forest for Luna’s continued care. For more information, or to donate to Sanctuary Forest, visit sanctuaryforest.org.