Lawmaker takes another stab at tackling the red cedar menace

An Oklahoma lawmaker is taking another swing at cutting down a growing problem in Oklahoma, specifically an invasive species of tree that's proven extremely dangerous.

Rep. Richard Morrissette (D-Oklahoma City) says the eastern red cedar is taking over 700 acres a day in the state.

And with the ongoing drought, it doesn't help that each tree can consume between 40 and 80 gallons of water daily.

The trees grow quickly, and are taking over vast swaths of prairie and farm land.

The real problem is they burn like torches, practically exploding into flame and spreading burning embers over a wide area.

Morrissette estimates the state loses $400 million annually in lost water, grazing land, and the destruction of wildlife habitat.

For years, he's tried to get the legislature to address this issue, and in the 2015 session, he'll try again with House Bill 1076 and House Bill 1077.

The plan is to create a work program for low-risk inmates who would learn how to eradicate the trees, giving them a marketable skill.

Landowners would be able to hire the inmate crews for much less than they would normally spend.

HB 1077 would look into using the harvested wood as a biomass energy source.

And the state would finally begin the task of curbing the "red menace," which would come as a major relief to firefighters, especially in rural areas.

One of Morrissette's bills made it through the House in 2013, but died in the Senate Public Safety Committee.





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