California activists who are trying to save a centuries-old oak tree suffered a setback Tuesday when a judge rejected their appeal to leave the tree where it is.

Friday, police removed protester John Quigley from the 400-year-old oak in Santa Clarita, north of Los Angeles, where he took up residence in early November.

A developer who owns the property wants to widen a road that leads to a future housing development, and the tree is in the path of the construction. The developer has agreed to a compromise proposal to dig up the tree and replant it nearby.

County officials say the plan should satisfy both parties, but environmental protesters call it a death sentence. They worry the tree will die if anyone tries to move it.

Tuesday, a judge sided with the developer, applauding the ideals of Mr. Quigley and his supporters but rejecting their request to delay the transplant. The judge said the widened road will help the community, and noted that the developer has promised to the pay the cost of moving the tree.

"I think the judge recognized that we have the right to remove this tree," said, Bill Rattazzi, the president of the development company. "And instead of doing that, we're going to move the tree. So I believe he felt that was going above and beyond [the call of duty], as do we."

The drama began November 1, when John Quigley climbed into the tree and urged the housing developer to re-route the road around it. The developer said that was too expensive. Over 71 days, Mr. Quigley spent most of his time atop a platform high in the tree's branches. He attracted curiosity seekers, supporters and some celebrities.

When the activist and his supporters rejected the compromise offer to relocate the tree, developers built a fence around it and sued him for trespassing. Friday, a judge ordered Mr. Quigley off the property, and police removed him peacefully.

Outside the courtroom Tuesday, the environmental crusader said he was not happy.

"Clearly I'm disappointed today, but it's a long campaign, and sometimes you have days like this," he said.

The activist has asked local officials to hold a public hearing on the tree's future. Developers say they are making preparations to transplant of the tree to a nearby park.