An Oklahoma County program to reduce the number of Eastern red cedar trees is one that other counties ought to copy. These trees are a menace and a dangerous one at that. The fewer of them we have, the better.
Red cedars are hardy and prolific — it's estimated there are 462 million of them in Oklahoma, with the state losing about 700 acres per day to the fast-spreading trees. Once they take root, red cedars can sap 40 gallons of water or more per day from the soil, exacerbating our current drought conditions. And the oily trees literally explode when they burn, serving as fuel for grass fires and making them a danger to those fighting the blazes.
Last week, District 2 County Commissioner Brian Maughan and state Agriculture Secretary Jim Reese debuted a program in which state inmates who are on work release will remove red cedars from public and private land in the county. A law passed last year by the Legislature allows Department of Corrections inmates to be used to harvest the trees.
“It's so expensive on our budget every year to fight these wildfires,” Maughan said. “We ought to try to do something proactively.”
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