EDMOND — The exploding population of Eastern red cedar trees is taking over, and people in Oklahoma are worried. One Oklahoma Conservation Commission director said red cedar trees are the greatest threat to the state’s environment since the soil erosion of the Dust Bowl days and the severe flooding that took place in the early 20th century. J.T. Winters Jr., Woodward County Conservation District director, said the state’s economy, human safety, health and wildlife populations, and water supplies are threatened by the red cedar population that plagues rangeland and urban areas. "This is the most invasive plant we have got,” Winters said. The Nature Conservancy in Oklahoma reports that in 1950, researchers found red cedars occupied 1.5 million acres in Oklahoma. Update surveys taken in 1985 and 1994 showed they had expanded in coverage 79 percent in just nine years. Today, the invasive plant reaches beyond an estimated nine million acres of rangeland and forestland in the state. This trend is consuming more than 760 acres of Oklahoma every day, conservancy officials report.
Burning trees explodeThe April 9 wildfires across the state put a spotlight on red cedar trees that explode when on fire, sending embers from rooftop to rooftop. Out-of-control fires brought fears of homeowners at Arcadia Lake to the forefront. Larry Meyers Sr., who owns property near Arcadia Lake, wants the city of Edmond to do something about the trees. "The cedars are a cancer on the whole area,” Meyers said. "The trees are multiplying and taking over.” Meyers is leading a campaign to get city officials to clear all the Eastern red cedars on the property surrounding Arcadia Lake. "We love where we live, and we don’t need any disasters,” Meyers said. Mark Bays, the state’s urban forestry coordinator, said he could work with Edmond officials to help create Firewise Communities, a national program to reduce wildfire threat to the home by altering surrounding plants. Damon Springer, the aquatic education coordinator for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, said workers have removed Eastern red cedar trees from more than 200 acres on the south side of Arcadia Lake. That is where the department’s new $1.3 million education center is being built on 720 acres.
At a glanceEastern red cedar trees
• Eastern red cedars are native Oklahoma trees.
• The oldest red cedar tree is more than 600 years old and lives near Lake Keystone.
• Historically, the trees grew in canyons or low areas, but as the landscape changed, the trees began growing elsewhere. Source: Mark Bays, Oklahoma Urban Forestry Coordinator.