Oklahoma lawmakers eye threat from cedars

BY MICHAEL MCNUTT Modified: October 28, 2009 at 4:38 am •  Published: October 28, 2009
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/> It’s best to burn the trees when they are young and shorter than 5 feet, Thralls said. Trees taller than that can burn easily, and can quickly make a fire spread out of control.

Thralls also asked committee members to support increasing the state’s share by $2 million a year to implement Eastern red cedar controls.

"This is a conservation issue for all Oklahomans,” he said.

The Eastern red cedar has taken over nearly 10 million acres of land, Thralls said. Economic losses from not managing the encroachment are projected to reach $447 million by 2013.

Rep. Richard Morrissette, who requested Tuesday’s study on the Eastern red cedar infestation, encouraged OSU to look at finding a product for the trees so they would be harvested. The trees have been used for mulch and for animal bedding purposes.

Increased landowner involvement can also help.

John Burwell, state forester for the state Agriculture, Food and Forestry Department, said other states have given tax breaks to landowners.

Communities can join the Firewise programto evaluate danger and plan to protect lives and property from wildfires.

Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City, said the April 9 wildfires that destroyed more than 100 homes underscore the fire threat caused by the Eastern red cedars.

"If we don’t start aggressively attacking this problem, I believe that in the near future there will be a major fire or a major crisis involving the red cedar,” he said.



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