Accessibility links

Controversial California Tree Moved, Replanted - 2004-01-21

A California oak tree at the center of an environmental controversy has been moved and replanted at a cost of $1 million. Defenders of the 400-year-old oak sparked a national campaign to save the tree.

A man named John Quigley spent 71 days living in its branches to keep the tree from being destroyed by bulldozers.

The oak tree was located in the Los Angeles suburb of Stevenson Ranch, near a road a developer wanted to widen to provide better access to a planned housing development.

Builder John Laing Homes refused to reroute the road, but in response to a stream of protesters and extensive publicity, it agreed to a compromise. The company said it would save the tree by moving it to an oak grove 200 meters from its old location.

"I think there are many places in this world we could spend a million dollars better than moving a tree," said Bill Rattazi, a company official. "From our perspective, this tree became something more than a tree, so for us, we decided to do the right thing, regardless of the cost."

Environmentalists worry that the massive tree, which they have dubbed "Old Glory," will not survive the move. John Quigley, who spent two months in the tree and even longer in court battles, says he is sad and angry. But, still, he calls the move a victory.

Resident Melody Reid says that as a child she climbed in the tree's branches. She says at least it has a chance in its new location.

"It's going to do better if it had stayed where it was, obviously, but given a choice of cutting it down or moving it, well, I concede to moving it," she said.

The oak tree weighs some 400,000 kilograms. Three large trucks moved it to its new home, with Mr. Quigley and a small crowd watching.