After living in an ancient redwood for two years, environmental activist Julia "Butterfly" Hill came down to earth today, her legs wobbly after her sojourn in the towering tree she called "Luna."
After working out the kinks, she hiked the two miles from the tree to a news conference on bare feet.
Although Hill said she was sad at leaving her treetop aerie, "it was so cold and wet this morning, I had to laugh, because I was so thankful that I don't have to sit through another winter."
The 25-year-old woman, who has lived in the tree since Dec. 10, 1997, to protest logging, reached an agreement Friday with Pacific Lumber Co. and promised to climb down from her 18-story-high perch, which is on company property.
"There is no way to be in the presence of these ancient beings and not be affected," Hill said of the redwoods. "There's something more than a profit, and that's life."
One of her closest neighbors was Lonnie Vones, who lives below the ridge on which Luna is rooted.
"She's my hero," said Vones, who fears the land above his home would have collapsed if it had been logged. "She at least delayed a major disaster. If a big mudslide started there, it would wipe out my house."
In a statement, Pacific Lumber said it agreed to the deal with Hill "in an effort to end a community controversy and concentrate . . . efforts upon implementing a viable harvesting program" under the terms of the Headwaters Agreement.
In the settlement, Hill and her supporters pledged to pay $50,000 to Pacific Lumber to make up for lost logging revenue. The company agreed to spare Hill's redwood and a 2.9-acre buffer zone around it.
"Luna shall remain undisturbed on the Luna property in perpetuity and under no circumstances, living or dead, shall Luna be removed from the Luna property," the contract states.
The company will donate the $50,000 to Humboldt State University for forestry studies.
"We can now focus on our business and the future, and it allows Julia to get on with her life," said Pacific Lumber spokeswoman Mary Bullwinkel.
Hill, who plans to write a book, travel and speak, spent the past two years bathing in a bucket, hauling up food and supplies by rope and sleeping under a tarp on an 8-by-8-foot plywood platform.
In the rainy Northern California forest, she braved howling winds and damp winters, and became something of a celebrity. Television crews from Israel, Germany and England filmed her. Singers Bonnie Raitt and Joan Baez visited her. And she became the "in-tree correspondent" for a cable TV show about the environment.
Using her cellular phone to communicate, she gave interviews and spoke at rallies against old-growth timber logging.