The Tree Controversy

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After wildfires blazed through much of Oklahoma during the 2012 summer, it became clear throughout the state that the Eastern Red-cedar tree was a large stimulant to such disaster.

Though Oklahoma politicians and business executives discussed measures to mitigate the destructive power of these trees, one year later, there is not much to show for it.

“Nothing has changed since last year. Nothing,” says State Rep. Richard Morrissette (D-Oklahoma City). He believes that the Eastern-Red-cedar has, over the years, become a “prime fuel source for Oklahoma wildfires.”

“With cedar drinking varying amounts of water under certain weather conditions – sometimes as much as 80 gallons per day per tree – and with related wildfire costs, loss of grazing land, wildlife habitat and the highest allergy rates in the nation, we will spend about $450 million taxpayer dollars in 2014 just to contend with this invasive species,” says Morrissette.

For this reason, he believes that the issue of the Eastern Red-cedar is one of the most underrated economic and conservation issues in Oklahoma’s history.

In 2011, the Oklahoma House and Senate passed the Woody Biomass Initiative, which was designed to use woody biomass from the trees’ waste wood as an alternative fuel source for the production of energy.

Shortly after its passage, however, Gov. Mary Fallin vetoed the bill. Additionally, many other individuals throughout Oklahoma still believe the trees’ impact is overrated.

The Oklahoma Forestry Services has stood by its position that poor land management plays a much bigger role than that of the Eastern Red-cedar in wild fires.

Still, Morrissette and many throughout the state believe that something must be done.

“It’s the general public and our entrepreneurs who are tired of the legislature and the governor ignoring this crisis,” says Morrissette. “Calls to my office are repeatedly the voices of incredulous Oklahomans who don’t understand why we continue to fail to get the job done.”

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