Controlling the Invasive Eastern Red Cedars

 

Oklahoma’s native forests, rangelands, pastures and prairies are seriously threatened by an invasion of junipers.  Ranchers and wildlife enthusiasts have been all too aware of the problem as red cedar and other junipers displace native pastures and degrade wildlife habitat. 

Cedar trees can provide some value to wildlife but the value is generally not unique and can often be fulfilled by other vegetation.  The main problem associated with cedars for quail is they occupy space.  As cedars invade, vegetation that supplies food and nesting cover for quail is squeezed out.  Cedars are also quite competitive with other tree species and can reduce mast (acorns, chittam, etc.) production.  Cedars competition can be so sever that mature trees may be stressed to the point of dying.  Under some circumstances wildlife habitat is lost because certain animals avoid areas with cedar.  Some prairie bird species have been documented to avoid areas with cedars and turkey routinely abandon roost sites that have grown up with cedar. 

Red cedar and other junipers must be properly managed.  Without prompt and aggressive action, the invasion will continue to accelerate.  The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) estimates that eight million acres in Oklahoma are currently infested with at least 50 juniper trees per acre.  The encroachment is increasing at an estimated rate of 762 acres a day or nearly 300,000 acres per year. 

Prior to settlement of Oklahoma, juniper infestation was not a problem as the trees were primarily limited to protected alcoves and canyons that were rarely burned by fire.  However, as people began to settle the plains, they controlled the naturally occurring wildfires that kept red cedar and other junipers in check.  

 Ways to remove cedars

 

Additional Resources

  • Eastern Red cedar Control and Management – Best Management Practices to Restore Oklahoma’s
    Ecosystems

  • Interface South – Developed by the USDA Forest Service Southern Research Station and Southern Region to heighten awareness of and provide information about wildland-urban interface issues. Critical interface issues include fire, watershed management, wildlife conservation and management, land use planning and policy.

  • Southern Group of State Foresters – The Southern Group of State Foresters is comprised of the state foresters for the 13 southern states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The group serves as a coordinating body to facilitate forest resource issues and governing policies throughout the south. State forestry agencies are an information source for landowners, outdoor enthusiasts, forest industry, developers, communities and numerous other parties. 

  • Sea of Cedar - article published in Oklahoma Living August 2005