Darren Brown, News 9
OKLAHOMA CITY -- As Oklahoma struggles to get a handle on fast-moving wildfires in our state, legislation to remove some of the fires' fuel moves at a snail's pace.
State Representative Richard Morrissette authored HB 2686 last year. The bill, better known as the Eastern Red Cedar Initiative Act, passed and was signed by then-Governor Brad Henry. It also established the Eastern Red Cedar Registry Board, overseen by the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture.
"What we're really doing is trying to find alternate methods that will make revenue," said state secretary of agriculture Jim Reese." "So that it makes it more beneficial to the landowner to clear their land of red cedars."
Morrissette is not pleased with the board's progress.
"Well it's been 15 months and the cedar board has done nothing," he said.
The board has been meeting regularly, bringing in guest speakers to present different ideas for Oklahoma's growing red cedar problem. But it's not a quick fix.
"There's been efforts to try to find alternative markets for red cedar for about twenty years or more," Reese said. "It's not an easy solution."
Morrissette introduced a companion bill this year similar to his red cedar initiative act of last year. He saw the Woody Biomass Energy Initiative as a logical next step.
"The biomass bill was in order to create a commission to define a biomass energy plan for the state of Oklahoma," said Morrissette.
That bill, HB 1486, passed late in this year's session but was vetoed just days later by Governor Mary Fallin. Fallin and Reese agreed that the bill duplicated the efforts of the Eastern Red Cedar Registry Board.
"We saw it as a duplication almost entirely," secretary Reese said. "If the market is bio energy, so be it. If the market is furniture, wood products, cedar chests, so be it. The idea is to create a market for red cedar."
The red cedar problem is one that's not going away soon. Morrissette said he isn't either.
"I'm gonna keep talking to the people of Oklahoma in order to help people remove this insidious problem which practically burned down northeast Oklahoma county last week," Morrissette said.