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Red Menace: Invasive tree creating a lot of headaches
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Red Menace: Invasive tree creating a lot of headaches

Red Menace: Invasive tree creating a lot of headaches

Red Menace: Invasive tree creating a lot of headaches

The eastern red cedar is creating huge headaches in Oklahoma, and not just among those who suffer from allergies.

It's estimated that the trees are establishing themselves on 700 new acres of open land each day.

They grow quickly, and in the drought-stricken state, consume 40 to 80 gallons of water per day.

They burn so fast, firefighters describe them as explosive and the foliage burns as it flies through the air, landing and spreading the flames elsewhere.

State Rep. Richard Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City, has tried for four years to get legislation passed to combat the invasive species.

He says the state loses some $400 million annually in lost water, grazing land, and wildlife habitat destruction.

That doesn't take into account the spiraling healthcare costs absorbed by people who suffer from "cedar fever."

Morrissette has introduced three bills that tackle the issue in different ways.

HB 1515 works on eradicating the trees, addressing the serious fire safety issues.

HB 1513 encourages using non-violent inmates to help eliminate the trees and offers them certification they can use after release to help find work.

HB1656, the Woody Biomass Initiative, would explore the feasbility of using cedar and other similar woods as a fuel source.

Morrissette says Missouri uses woody biomass to generate power in its prison system, saving the state a great deal of money.

However, so far lawmakers have not acted to fight the eastern red cedar invasion.

"The political process is such that things move very slowly," he told KRMG. "New ideas and progressive ideas move very slowly because they're new."

He continued, "any times you want to change things you've got to be persistent, and it goes very slow."

VIDEO: KRMG reporter sees a line of trees go up in flames in Creek County

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