Tree supporter ‘Tarzan’ continues his protest over cutting |

Tree supporter ‘Tarzan’ continues his protest over cutting

“Tarzan,” a tree sitter 80 feet up a ponderosa pine in Nevada City’s Pioneer Cemetery, said Monday he expects to be “starved out” instead of physically extracted.

The protester has occupied the tree — one of 263 slated to be cut by PG&E as part of the utility company’s Enhanced Vegetation Management Program — since Thursday night.

PG&E used American Crane Rental, an independent contractor, to communicate directly Monday with the sitter from a crane-lifted bucket.

According to Rich Myers, project manager for American Crane Rental, removing the protester by force is not an option, given that the company requires all crane riders to be trained in a formal setting. Myers said the arborist and crane operator sent up in the bucket Monday afternoon told “Tarzan” they would begin cutting trees near and around his current residence.

Brandi Merlo, a spokeswoman with PG&E, said the company is working with the police.

“We obviously have to wait for the work area to be safe, so we’ll continue to coordinate with local law enforcement on the issue,” Merlo said.

Below on Orchard Lane, Tom Dykstra sat in front of his property at the base of another one of the 12 trees the city’s arborist deemed low risk that’s still marked by PG&E.

According to his neighbor, Wendy Stalmaster, the tree in question is on her side of the property line.

Stalmaster is part of the Mark family, who moved here in 1972 and rebuilt their home in 2009 after it burnt down in 2006.

“We’re sensitive to the issue,” Stalmaster said, referring to her and her mother Kathy Mark. “There’s a balance between needs.”


Xylem Larla Day is a spokeswoman for Save Nevada County Trees, the advocacy group leading the fight against the rollout of the Enhanced Vegetation Management Program.

According to Larla Day, the occupied ponderosa is one of the 12 trees identified by the city’s independent arborist as a non-risk. The tree in question is located 130 feet from and leaning away from the nearest PG&E power line.

“None of us are objecting to legitimate hazards,” Larla Day said. “We just want as honest a risk assessment as possible.”

Matt Osypowski, an organizer with Save Nevada County Trees, said PG&E is standing on easement rights granted to it decades ago that allows the company to clear hazards within 12 feet of either side of the line. He said the results of the city’s independent arborist assessment suggest that PG&E’s assessment protocol is inconsistent and its cutting “aggressive.”

Osypowski said Nevada City is on the frontline of the fight because the municipality is one of the first areas PG&E began its Vegetation Management program.

“Millions more will be cut,” Osypowski said.

Julia Bernardini, one of the three people arrested last week on trespassing charges over the trees, claimed PG&E opted out of local negotiations and has steam rolled through the clearing process in Nevada City.

A PG&E spokesperson has said it has an obligation to remove trees deemed hazardous.

“PG&E doesn’t want to set a precedent for local negotiation,” Bernardini said. “We love our trees. That’s why we live here.”

Rebecca O’Neil is a staff writer with The Union. She can be reached at

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