OK Rep. Hatches Plan To Eradicate Flammable Eastern Red Cedar
OKLAHOMA CITY - It's been referred to as the "state's greatest enemy" contributing to wildfires, drought, and loss of grazing land. Now, a plan is in place to get rid of the Eastern Red Cedar using inmates as the manpower to harvest the trees.
For the past two years wildfires burned across the state, destroying homes, and property and lives; all fueled by the Eastern Red Cedar.
"It has a huge impact on the state and it continues to grow." said Clay Pope, the executive director of the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts.
Pope estimates it would cost $7 million a year just to control annual growth.
"It should be a major priority in the State of Oklahoma to deal with these very [invasive] trees," said Rep. Richard Morrissette (D) - Oklahoma City. Morrissette has been fighting to get the state involved for four years. The past session he was successful in passing legislation allowing prisoners to harvest the cedars.
"I don't think it's a silver bullet in and of itself, but if we can fire out of the gun and hopefully do some damage to the Eastern Red Cedar," said Pope.
The next step is a pilot program. The State Department of Corrections however says that would cost about $190,000 dollars, money that's not in the budget, which means the legislature may need to fund the program next session.
But Morrissette says he doesn't want to wait that long.
"We lost $450 million last year because of this. I think we can find $100-thousand to come up with a solution to eradicate them," said Morrissette.
A Spokesperson from the DOC says they want inmates to work, this seems like a good service. But it's going to take some resources.