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Eastern Redcedar From Peril to Profit

Eastern Redcedar: From Peril to Profit

Oklahoma Lieutenant Governor Jari Askins encouraged conference attendees to work together to find environmentally and economically beneficial solutions for removing Redcedar from the land.
Oklahoma Lieutenant Governor Jari Askins encouraged conference attendees to work together to find environmentally and economically beneficial solutions for removing Redcedar from the land.

Representatives from tree-cutting equipment manufacturers spoke to the audience about the way different machinery worked to cut down cedar trees, and how to select the best tools for the job.
Representatives from tree-cutting equipment manufacturers spoke to the audience about the way different machinery worked to cut down cedar trees, and how to select the best tools for the job.

Various types of machinery were demonstrated cutting Eastern Redcedar trees down at Lake Draper.
Various types of machinery were demonstrated cutting Eastern Redcedar trees down at Lake Draper.

Eastern Redcedar is marked by white sapwood on the outside edges, while the heartwood in the center is red to deep reddish-brown. In addition to its beautiful color, the heartwood of Eastern Redcedar is highly resistant to decay and attack by insects, including termites.
Eastern Redcedar is marked by white sapwood on the outside edges, while the heartwood in the center is red to deep reddish-brown. In addition to its beautiful color, the heartwood of Eastern Redcedar is highly resistant to decay and attack by insects, including termites.

During the tree cutting demonstration at Lake Draper, High Plains RC&D Coordinator Tom Lucas visits with conference participants about the High Plains RC&D cedar removal project on 53 acres near Woodward.
During the tree cutting demonstration at Lake Draper, High Plains RC&D Coordinator Tom Lucas visits with conference participants about the High Plains RC&D cedar removal project on 53 acres near Woodward.

Oil and water do mix. In fact, they are just two of the valuable by-products that can be harvested when Eastern Redcedar trees are removed from rangeland.

Marketing products from cedar trees and the benefits of reclaiming grassland invaded by cedar were among the many topics discussed at the 2-day conference “Eastern Redcedars: From Peril to Profit” held July 8 and 9 in Oklahoma City.

Over 200 people attended the event, hosted by the High Plains Resource Conservation & Development (RC&D) Council, including participants from Indiana, Oregon, Colorado, Nebraska, Texas, and Oklahoma. Oklahoma Lieutenant Governor Jari Askins and Oklahoma’s Secretary of Agriculture Terry Peach were in attendance, expressing their desire to remove the water guzzling trees from the land in a way that is environmentally and economically beneficial.

“This conference is a wonderful opportunity for conservation experts, landowners, and government officials to come together as partners to tackle the Eastern Redcedar tree problem,” Askins told the audience in her keynote address. “By establishing this collaborative partnership, all parties will be able to collectively find a solution.”

Peach encouraged the audience to work together to find ways to use the cedar trees for rural and business development, with cedar oil, mulch, fibers, lumber, or other uses.

Of the 17 million acres of rangeland in Oklahoma, eight million are currently overgrown with Eastern Redcedars. That number is increasing at an alarming rate of 762 acres per day. Cedar invasion takes land out of production for livestock and diminishes wildlife habitat, which affects the economy and the balance of the environment.

The cedars also rob underground water, streams, and reservoirs of water that many municipalities rely on for their water supply. It is estimated that a mature cedar tree consumes 30 or more gallons of water per day. In addition to that, when a rainfall event does occur, the canopy on the trees prevents the rain from ever touching the ground: it is absorbed by the tree or evaporates.

The invasion of cedar is affecting more than the economy, water supplies, range conditions, and wildlife: it is also affecting our health. According to conference speaker Estelle Levetin, a botany professor at the University of Tulsa, who monitors airborne pollen levels in the atmosphere, cedar pollen is one of the top three most abundant pollens. Levetin said that as cedar population has increased, there has been a corresponding increase in allergy problems.

Conference speakers helped attendees understand the growing problem and view the abundant supply of Redcedar trees as a marketing opportunity.

Through a grant from the Oklahoma Departments of Commerce and Agriculture, Food and Forestry, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) mapped and inventoried Eastern Redcedar in 12 counties in northwest Oklahoma.

“This has helped economic developers and others determine optimum locations for business,” says Tom Lucas, coordinator for the High Plains RC&D. “It has also helped conservationists develop strategies and priorities for cedar tree removal.”

The technology used in the mapping was a key part of the High Plains RC&D’s “Hazardous Fuel for Economic Development Project” study. The study involved clearing the Redcedars from a 53-acre site in Woodward County, and then monitoring changes in stream flow, ground water levels, and rangeland restoration. Economic studies were done on the cedar products that were removed. Additionally, land value increased when more grass is available for wildlife and livestock grazing. This project was intended to be a small sample of what could happen if cedar removal was addressed on a much broader scale.

The current findings of the project were presented to Lieutenant Governor Askins and Secretary Peach on July 8.

According to Lucas, in the last three years 73 Eastern Redcedar-related businesses have been created in Oklahoma, employing almost 200 people. While some are strictly wood businesses, others are selling cedar mulch, cedar fiber, and cedar wood flour. Some businesses used the cedar by-products to create a drilling mud they sold to oilfield drilling companies to control circulation in the oil wells.

Speakers at the conference addressed opportunities to use the trees for higher value uses, such as a source of biofuel through a gasification process. Others speakers expressed opportunities to market Redcedar oil in the cosmetic and medical industry.

The conference concluded with a tree-cutting demonstration at Lake Draper.

More information on the project and conference can be obtained from the High Plains RC&D, based in Buffalo, Oklahoma, at 580-735-2023, x 4 or through their website: www.highplainsrcd.com. The High Plains RC&D is a partner with the USDA-NRCS, providing tools and technical support to stabilize and grow Oklahoma communities while protecting and developing natural resources.

By Dee Ann Littlefield, public affairs specialist, Waurika, OK
NRCS July 2008

Last Modified: 07/17/2008

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