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.
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.
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
“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
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
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.
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
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.