Red Cedars taking over parts of Nebraska

AP/Washington Times:
Nebraska lawmakers are looking for new ways to fight a fast-spreading tree species that crowds out other plants, destroys valuable ranchland and threatens the Great Plains from Texas to the Dakotas.

Eastern red cedar trees are native to the Plains but have spread out of control without the natural prairie fires that kept them in check centuries ago. The trees suck up sunlight and groundwater at the expense of other native plants and turn grasslands into barren patches of dirt.

The issue has caught the attention of state lawmakers, who will convene a hearing Friday at the Capitol to brainstorm ways to keep the problem from worsening.

“Once they get established, they just spread and choke out everything,” said Sen. Dan Hughes, of Venango, who is conducting a legislative study to see what the state can do. “It can cut your available rangeland by 60 to 70 percent, but you’re still paying property taxes on those acres. It has a pretty significant economic impact.”

Hughes said the trees can take root even on well-managed land if neighbors aren’t controlling them on their property. He said he doesn’t yet know whether he’ll introduce a bill in next year’s session but will consider suggestions he receives at the hearing. Senators may also review what other states have done, Hughes said.

Eastern red cedar trees traditionally survived on steep, north-facing slopes in canyons where prairie fires couldn’t reach. Then settlers started using them as windbreaks and doused the natural wildfires that kept them from spreading too quickly.
Texans seemed to be more concerned about the cedar pollen which can be annoying to those with allergies.  The city of Baton Rouge is named after the tree.  Its name is French for "red stick."

Wood from the trees is valued by some people.  It is naturally aromatic and deters insects.  It is often used for fence posts in Texas and some people use it in home construction where they need a lightweight wood as siding.   In Texas. it tends to compete with live oak trees.  It is often propagated by birds who consume the seed and then drop them while on the limbs of other trees.


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