TULSA - A bill designed to help tackle Oklahoma's problem with an invasive tree species has passed in the state House and will now move on to the Senate.
HB 1513, by Rep. Richard Morrissette (D-OKC) provides a mechanism whereby non-violent inmates will be trained to harvest the red cedar trees.
In a statement sent to KRMG, Morrissette writes: “We have created a unique funding apparatus to allow communities, non-profits, the state the federal government, private foundations and individuals to contribute to the cause of getting cedar on the ground. This public-private-partnership or P3 is the answer in these challenging economic times.”
Under the program, minimum security inmates will learn to harvest the trees, then receive certification of their abilities as a way to teach them a valuable skill.
At the same time, the Eastern Red Cedar problem will be addressed directly.
"The program will provide inmate skills training in three disciplines to include tree cutting/trimming, carpentry/framing and livestock management. A significant partner in the venture is Langston University whose meat goat management program will be incorporated to allow inmates to manage goats in the field put there to trim back cedar and brush in areas conducive to such activity," according to Morrissette's statement.
The trees burn fiercely, and are considered a major wildfire threat.
They also drink 40-80 gallons of water a day, a problem in drought-stricken Oklahoma.
Finally, they propogate so quickly, they are overgrowing an estimated 700 acres a day in the state.
Another Morrissette bill would further advance eradication efforts, while a third would use woody biomass to help supply state-run facilities with power, saving taxpayers as much as several million dollars a year in energy costs.