The Maine Woods

A Publication of the Forest Ecology Network

 Volume Five     Number One                           Late Winter 2001

 The Forest Ecology Network Bookshelf

The Legacy of Luna: The Story of a Tree, a Woman, and the Struggle to Save the Redwoods

by Julia Butterfly Hill
Hardcover - 256 pages
April 2000
Harper San Francisco; ISBN: 0062516582

On December 18, 1999, Julia Butterfly Hill's feet touched the ground for the first time in over two years, as she descended from "Luna", a thousand-year-old redwood in Humboldt County, California.

Hill had climbed 180 feet up into the tree high on a mountain on December 10, 1997, for what she thought would be a two- to three-week-long "tree-sit". The action was intended to stop Pacific Lumber, a division of the Maxxam Corporation, from the environmentally destructive process of clear-cutting the ancient redwood and the trees around it. The area immediately next to Luna had already been stripped and, because, as many believed, nothing was left to hold the soil to the mountain, a huge part of the hill had slid into the town of Stafford, wiping out many homes.

Over the course of what turned into an historic civil action, Hill endured El Niño storms, helicopter harassment, a ten-day siege by company security guards, and the tremendous sorrow brought about by an old-growth forest's destruction. This story - written while she lived on a tiny platform eighteen stories off the ground - is one that only she can tell.

Twenty-five-year-old Julia Butterfly Hill never planned to become what some have called her - the Rosa Parks of the environmental movement. She never expected to be honored as one of Good Housekeeping's "Most Admired Women of 1998" and George magazine's "20 Most Interesting Women in Politics," to be featured in People magazine's "25 Most Intriguing People of the Year" issue, or to receive hundreds of letters weekly from young people around the world. Indeed, when she first climbed into Luna, she had no way of knowing the harrowing weather conditions and the attacks on her and her cause. She had no idea of the loneliness she would face or that her feet wouldn't touch ground for more than two years. She couldn't predict the pain of being an eyewitness to the attempted destruction of one of the last ancient redwood forests in the world, not could she anticipate the immeasurable strength she would gain or the life lessons she would learn from Luna. Although her brave vigil and indomitable spirit have made her a heroine in the eyes of many, Julia's story is a simple, heartening tale of love, conviction, and the profound courage she has summoned to fight for our earth's legacy.


Reading the Forested Landscape : A Natural History of New England

by Tom Wessels, illustrated by Brian D. Cohen
Paperback - 200 pages
Reprint edition June 1999
Countryman Press ISBN: 0881504203

Reading the Forested Landscape will help many thousands of New Englanders answer the questions that come to mind as they wander this landscape of stone walls, stunted apple trees, and towering hemlocks. First of all, the book plainly deserves readers outside of New England. While the particular forests the book looks at are in the northeast, Tom Wessels' approach and style won't be lost on anyone with an interest in natural history.

The bedrock of the book is patient, graceful storytelling. At the outset of each chapter, Wessels shows us a simple print of a forest. He asks us to wonder what made that forest, and then he leads us, in unaffected voice, through his thinking as he answers that question. Why is this maple here? Are the trees here fire damaged? Wessels describes the outlines from which we can read a larger story. Each chapter is in a sense a little mystery.

It's apparent how carefully Reading the Forested Landscape was crafted. This isn't just a collection of portraits; the chapters progress from one to the next intelligently. For example, you learn how to recognize a fire in one chapter; at the beginning of the next, Wessels starts by asking whether a similar fire has taken place in this new spot. That's a simple transition, but it really helps you stay in the flow of the writing. The author's smart enough to reinforce what you've learned at the same time that he's establishing continuity in the larger story. This book reads through wonderfully.

And there's a bigger picture you're reading toward, too. Each chapter also includes a broader natural history subject related to its particular forest. You've seen a few trees, and you've puzzled out the sort of setting you're looking at; now, by touching on a bigger natural historical theme, you place that forest in the natural world as a whole. Reading the Forested Landscape does a wonderful job of drawing you into that big picture. How can we look at an eastern forest without thinking of the Chestnuts that dominated there until early this century? Sure, maybe those trees are gone now, but they're part of this story.

Wessels delightful book really will tell you how to read the forested landscape of New England, and he manages to do so with charm and style. A walk in the woods will never leave you puzzled again.


The Hidden Forest : The Biography of an Ecosystem

by Jon R. Luoma
Paperback - 228 pages (May 2000)
Henry Holt (Paper);    ISBN: 0805064486

Tucked away into the verdant folds of the Cascade foothills east of Eugene, Oregon, there is a forest that has been forming since before Columbus first set foot in the New World. The 16,000-acre Andrews Experimental Forest is an old-growth forest, a description largely unknown to the American public until the late 1980s, when the spotted owl swooped into notoriety. In some forestry circles, other adjectives like decadent are used to describe this forest's towering Douglas firs, western red cedars, and western hemlocks-that is, a forest that has reached maximum wood fiber capacity. Loggers contend that allowing such giant trees to die, rot, and fall over is a waste of resources. "I'm clearcutting to save the forest," declared a partisan newspaper ad in the go-go timber years of the 1970s, when old growth was liquidated at an unprecedented rate to make way for managed forest crops. The only problem with this view is that it misses the forest for the trees. In The Hidden Forest, Jon Luoma takes the reader on an intimate, guided tour below-and above-the canopy to view the natural processes of an ancient forest and visit with the scientists working there

The Andrews Experimental Forest is unique in that it brings together scientists from diverse fields to join a collaborative effort, with the end result being an entire ecosystem under the microscope. In the heart of summer research season, scientists can be found burrowing in the soil under logs; or trapping insects fifteen stories or more up in the tree canopy with the aid of rock-climbing gear; or scrambling crablike in a neoprene wet suit in a rushing, buffeting mountain stream....

One optimistic scientist is examining the process of rot in fallen trees, a study that will take two centuries in the case of these old-growth logs, meaning that "it will be up to the contemporaries of [his] great-great-great-great-grandchildren to complete the analysis he has begun." Others are busy identifying thousands of species new to science. To date, this research has yielded a "wellspring of key discoveries," turning the environmental and scientific communities upside-down. But meanwhile, the last remnants of unprotected Pacific old-growth forest continue to fall to the chainsaw. "It remains to be seen," writes Luoma, "how long it might take some entrenched U.S. Forest Service managers to fully embrace more ecosystem-based approaches." The Hidden Forest is testimony as to why sooner is better than later.

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