OKLAHOMA CITY - They're the fuel that feeds so many of our state's destructive wildfires: Red Cedar trees are no stranger to Oklahoma. No matter where you look, you're sure to find one. However, an Oklahoma man wants to change that.
"Basically they are land mines waiting to explode," said Steve Farris.
The OSU forestry grad says not only are red cedars responsible for the severity of the western wildfires last spring, but the invasive species originally planted by the government to prevent soil erosion and provide windbreaks is cutting into farmland, and each tree can soak up to 80 gallons of water from the soil a day.
"We are losing 700 acres a day to cedar encroachment over the state of Oklahoma," said Farris.
Farris moved back to the Sooner State from New Hampshire 10 years ago. He wants to take a page out of their play book and create biofuel power plants to turn the nuisance trees into electricity.
"500 megawatts of power per day thru the production of cedars we would be looking at getting rid of 25000 tons of cedars per day." said Farris.
Farris says he has gotten positive feedback from legislators but News 4 went to the capitol. One State Senator says he is in favor getting rid of the cedars but showed us results of a Senate study on Biofuel plants, putting the cost of 5 facilities in Oklahoma at $2.9 billion. The study cites plants in Texas and California that sit idle because burning wood isn't as cost competitive as fossil fuels, wind or solar.
"The sap is combustible; it's almost like a car bomb going off if they get on fire.. they explode.. and a lit ember can go as far as a mile and a half to start another fire we have to deal with," said Brian Maughan, Oklahoma County Commissioner.
The commissioner also knows the threat from the red cedars. He has instituted a program where county residents can have crews come to their property and destroy the trees.
The program partially underwritten by the Oklahoma City County health department. They say it helps to cut down on allergens produced by the cedars.
"We are losing a lot of area for livestock and for harvest that an economic impediment on us as well," said Maughan.
Maughan says the problem is so bad there is a four-year waiting list for tree removal in Oklahoma County..
For more information on tree removal, call 713-1502.