Oklahoma State University attempts to restore land by cutting trees

Oklahoma State University seeks to reduce fire hazard, preserve water resources in Stillwater area.
by Jonathan Sutton Modified: April 13, 2013 at 7:35 pm •  Published: April 14, 2013

Oklahoma Forestry Services Spokeswoman Michelle Finch-Walker said the organization supports limiting red cedars in situations when it can improve the health of more desirable tree species.

But she said the organization does not advocate cutting down large numbers of trees with the sole intention of preventing wildfires, calling it “shortsighted and uninformed.”

Walker said the same effect can be achieved by good land management, including spacing out plants and trees and keeping trees trimmed back.

In addition to trying to prevent fires, McFee said clearing the trees will open up the land for the return of animal research and grazing lands.

“With all the cedars, there really is nothing there to study other than the trees,” he said.

McFee said he is hoping the effort can clear land around Lake Carl Blackwell for recreation and possibly help raise water levels, which have been low in recent years.

Keith Owens, department head of Natural Resource and Ecology Management at OSU, said the cedars use about 10 gallons of groundwater a day, though large trees can use up to 30. He said the addition of this groundwater, along with water that never reaches the ground because it gets stuck in limbs and evaporates, could help raise water levels and lessen drought conditions.

McFee said the project is aimed at taking care of the university's land.

“Land stewardship is basically what it comes down to,” he said. “We're trying to make the land useful again while at the same time cutting fire risk.”

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