I had been talking with John Weir, range management and prescribed burn specialist of Oklahoma State University for a while when I asked this question:
“So, what exactly is the proper way to spell Eastern Redcedar? Do I capitalize both words or what?”
He answered in a way I hadn’t expected:
“No. Neither. You capitalize neither word. We in the forestry and range ecology areas don’t give it the respect of capital letters.”
I laughed, but then confirmed with him that indeed, you really DON’T capitalize the tree’s name. Although his answer was delivered in a dryly humorous way, he was also serious. To capitalize the species name would mean that there would be some hierarchical value placed in the invasive juniper species (Juniperus virginiana) in Oklahoma. But by and large, right now it’s just a problem.
How bad is this problem we see along the fence lines of every thoroughfare in the state? Well, pretty bad. Quite possibly, epidemic.
In 2002 the OK Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry established the “Redcedar Task Force,” charged with exploring issues surrounding the species and “developing a long-term strategy to deal with the problems created by the juniper infestation, estimated to be expanding at 762 acres per day.” After the initial meeting, the task force concluded that “the negative impacts of juniper encroachment on our natural resources, native wildlife populations, the health of our citizens and our economic potential are unacceptable.”
The report is 32 pages long and is a fairly easy and straightforward read. The USDA Natural Resources Conversation 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 300,000 acres per year. Finally, (and remember, this was in 2002) they estimated that $157 million was needed to address current conservation treatments.
Even worse? They estimated that in order to RESTORE lands already suffering from encroachment, as well as to maintain lands free of further problems, landowners will need to aggressively treat 2 to 4 million acres per year. Economic losses from not managing juniper encroachment were projected to be $447 million by 2013. That’s next year, right?
So, what are the facts and the urban legends surrounding this problematic juniper, and what can we do about it? Continue reading If the eastern redcedar Were a Disease, the CDC Would Quarantine Oklahoma