Protesters leave the tree tops in Berkley, Calif.


Marcio Jose Sanchez, The Associated Press

By Michelle Locke

BERKELEY, California – A group of activists who have occupied a tree for nearly two years to protest a university campus construction project that would clear a grove on Tuesday ended their protest.

The tree-sitters, who had taken turns sitting in the branches over 21 months, agreed to come down peacefully Tuesday on the condition the University of California will create a land use committee that will include input from students and community members into the school’s future land decisions.

The protest began in late 2006 in an effort to prevent the Berkeley campus from clearing the trees to make room for the new sports center.

School officials had said they were prepared to forcibly remove the activists and had constructed scaffolding around the tree to mount the effort.

But soon after the tree-sitters announced the agreement through a two-way radio to reporters below Tuesday, they slowly climbed down and onto the scaffolding amid cheers from supporters. They were immediately detained by police.

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    After many legal battles, the school got court clearance last week to begin building. Opponents had charged that the project violated environmental and earthquake safety regulations.

    By Tuesday morning, arborists had cut down 40 of the 41 trees marked for the ax. The final two that remained included the occupied redwood as well as another redwood officials plan to transplant.

    The campus has promised to plant three new trees for every one cut.