Project Description

While researching Luna and Me, my family and I trekked to California to visit Luna and the redwoods! Stuart Moskowitz of Sanctuary Forest, and prime caretaker of Luna, shared the story of a vandal who tried to cut Luna down nearly a year after Julia came down. During our day with Luna, we packed the cut with the bear-saliva-clay-medicine that has been used for 14 years as instructed by a Cherokee Bear Medicine Healer. Luna’s bark has grown over the gaping cut in places and continues to heal!

Learning from Luna by Stuart Moskowitz, 2002

More than a year has passed since somebody cut halfway through Luna with a chain saw. But because of the efforts of an incredible group of volunteers, an ever-grow- ing amount of worldwide support, and most of all Luna’s own remarkable efforts to regain her bal- ance, Luna still stands tall.

I’ve learned a lot from Luna. I’m a math teacher. I am also on the board of Sanctuary Forest, a Humboldt County land trust. When Julia Butterfly climbed down from Luna, Sanctuary Forest became trustee of an agreement between Julia and Pacific Lumber Company, and I began my role as primary monitor/caretaker of this “Luna Covenant.”

When we first learned of the attack, we knew we had to do whatever was nec- essary to save Luna. We were concerned about Luna’s biological health, but more pressing, we were concerned about Luna’s structural stability. With the first of the winter’s storms in the immediate forecast, we knew we had to act fast to keep Luna from toppling in the wind.

Redwood arborist Dennis Yniguez designed the brackets seen in many press photographs. These brackets function as “butterfly bandages,” fastened above and below the saw cut to minimize Luna’s movements.

These brackets are a testimony to Luna’s strength as well as her influence. While it was Dennis who designed them, the brackets were manufactured by Pacific Lumber employees in their metal fabrica- tion shop, then installed by volunteers from Sanctuary Forest, along with Pacific Lumber and California Department of Forestry employees. This all was complet- ed in one long day, just as the storm arrived! Even more remarkable, the work was done by conservationists, loggers, and government agents working side by side!

This incredible collaboration was just beginning. Luna’s stature as an interna- tional symbol for the need to protect our forests was far greater than I had imag- ined. While the brackets helped stabilize Luna, more was needed. As the coordina- tor of the “medical response team,” I began receiving phone calls from people all over the world offering help.

After much collaboration and discus- sion, we chose to complete the structural work using the design of engineer Steve Salzman. Tree climbers (led by redwood canopy biologist Dr. Steve Sillett and South American canopy expert Paul Donahue) installed a steel cable “collar” around Luna’s main trunk 100 feet above the ground. Four cables radiate from this col- lar and are attached with turnbuckles to four remote anchor points 100-150 feet away. With this cable assembly in place, Luna should be able to withstand the fiercest of storms.

Restoring Luna’s biological health required a totally different approach. With the help of Cherokee Bear Medicine Healer Byron Jordan, we used local clay to seal the cut. Byron explained how Native Americans used healing clay on plants and animals since pre-historic times. This ended the initial phase of treatment.

I continue to visit and monitor Luna at least once each month. The clay needs repacking every few months, as it dries, cracks, then gets washed by rain. The cables needed adjust- ing and tightening once last summer.

Most important, I continue to watch Luna’s overall health. The biolo- gists told us that, due to the loss of moisture and nutrient flow, we should expect extensive dieback of Luna’s foliage. It was predicted that Luna would lose her crown within two to five years. But they also reassured us that, while Luna could change dramatically, she might also continue to live for many (possibly hundreds) of years.

I take photographs of Luna’s crown every month. In the summer of 2001, I documented the browning of needles at the very top of Luna. I thought I was watching the beginning of this predicted dieback. I appreciated Dennis Yniguez’ reassuring words to understand how “Luna is responding with the wisdom of more than 100 million years of evolution” in order to regain her balance.

But as I continued watching Luna through the summer and into the dry months of fall, I learned that the wisdom Dennis spoke of also includes strength and resilience. Luna did not continue losing her needles. The browning I witnessed during the summer was the result of the annual loss of needles that happens to every conifer. Luna looks as green and lush as she did before the attack. She looks strong. Even the land within the three-acre circle that marks the “Luna Property” is looking better and better.

Julia Butterfly and her support team turned Luna into a worldwide symbol of the need to protect old growth forests. Ironically, the chain-saw attacker has broadened the meaning of Luna’s symbol- ism. In the face of adversity, Luna repre- sents balance, strength, and resilience.