Deal reached in Nevada City tree-sitting protest |

Deal reached in Nevada City tree-sitting protest

After nearly a week alone in a Pioneer Cemetery tree, a Nevada City tree activist nicknamed “Tarzan” has come down following a deal with PG&E that protesters are calling a “moderate victory.”

PG&E spokeswoman Brandi Merlo said Thursday the company has agreed to only top the tree at 85-90 feet instead of cutting it down, and will not press charges against activists. The tree-sitter, Brandon Jonutz, agreed to come down and will face a trespassing citation. Jonutz and Save Nevada County Trees organizer Matt Osypowski also agreed not to continue their activism against PG&E’s vegetation management in Nevada City.

According to Merlo, cutting the tree to 90 feet would make it “no longer a risk to our system.“

Jonutz said after returning to the ground, he now plans to get married.

“We made the decision a week ago, but Tess just formally proposed to me,” he said.

For Jonutz the ordeal, aside from police confrontations, was a pleasant one.

“It was one of the most beautiful experiences with camping I’ve ever had,” Jonutz said of his six days in the tree. “The community really cares about trees and cares about each other. They want to preserve the natural beauty of the town center for next generations.”

According to Jonutz, he was prepared for the long haul as soon as he climbed into the tree.

“I came prepared,” he said. “I took a week off of work and I got everything ready. I knew I might get stuck up there.”

Osypowski said while the victory was small — only saving two-thirds of one tree, out of 263 trees proposed for mitigation — he’s glad they were able to bring PG&E to the negotiating table.

“For me it’s a real validation of our activism and acknowledgement of the fact that standing up, holding your place, actually works,” he said.

Osypowski warned other communities dealing with PG&E to “be aware and be involved early.”

While protesters celebrated across from the cemetery on Spring Street, Orchard Street resident Kathy Dotson said it may have come at a price.

“Unfortunately they’ve turned all eyes and energy onto Orchard Street now,” she said of PG&E contractors. “It’s like full assault and it’s pretty awful.”

To contact Staff Writer John Orona, email or call 530-477-4229.

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