Native Red Cedars Endangering Prairie Ecosystem

Sunday, February 11th 2007, 5:33 pm
By: News On 6

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) A researcher at Oklahoma State University says the Eastern red cedar trees growing across much of Kansas and Oklahoma are threatening the water supply, costing ranchers millions of dollars and displacing wildlife.

OSU researcher Terry Bidwell says anybody who drinks water or has interest in wildlife or the rural economy needs to be concerned about cedars.

For centuries, red cedars were mostly found only on rocky bluffs, where they escaped fires started by lightning.

When Europeans began settling the area, they fought the fires, which are a natural part of the grasslands. And the government encouraged planting cedars for windbreaks and wildlife habitat.

One study shows that one such 15-foot tree can consume 35 gallons of water a day.

Bidwell says that Oklahoma City will soon have to become interested in cedar control, because the Canton Reservoir, from which the city draws its water, is becoming covered up with red cedars.

He says the Oklahoma cedar invasion also is tied to decreasing quail populations.