An Underutilized Resource in Rural Oklahoma

An Underutilized Resource in Rural Oklahoma

By State Rep. Mike Sanders

The prevention of wildfires, economic development in rural Oklahoma, and agriculture are three areas I am passionate about. I am pleased to say the three areas converge quite nicely when it comes to state policy regarding the Eastern red cedar.

The Eastern red cedar takes over nearly 300,000 acres of Oklahoma land each year, and a mature tree can soak up as many as 30 gallons of water a day, according to an interim study held this fall. Clay Pope, the executive director of the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts told the House Agriculture and Rural Development Committee that Oklahoma is losing 700 acres a day to the invasive cedar species.

Dewey County is the county with the greatest concentration of Eastern red cedar with more than 149,000 acres overtaken. Blaine, Woodward, Major, Canadian and Kingfisher counties have more than 250,000 acres combined that have been overtaken.

Burning seemed like one solution. Then I learned that the oil that makes the trees a fire hazard also has considerable value as an insecticide and a pharmaceutical used to fight certain forms of cancer. I also learned that 100 percent of the Eastern red cedar tree can be used to create products that could provide jobs for Oklahomans and at the same time remove this hazard that is both a wildfire fuel and parasite on agricultural land.

Federal Recycling Technologies, Inc. (FRT) of Norman, Oklahoma and GC Renewable Resource Technologies LLC (GCRRT) of Commerce, Oklahoma are two companies that have developed different processes that derive marketable products from the Eastern red cedar.

FRT uses a pyrolytic process to heat shredded Eastern red cedar trees in the absence of oxygen to recover cedar oil. When refined, the aromatic oil fetches from $50-$250 per gallon on the open market and has a wide range of applications from industrial to biomedical use.

GCRRT produces residential pellets and heat logs, and commercial fuel pellets used in REC/KWh electricity generationfrom a wide variety of traditionally cellulosic organic waste materials employed in a formula that is bound by non-toxic and perpetually occurring waste petroleum plastic material through a proprietary process. David Watson, GCRRT Principal Member, says that with the price of heating fuels continuing to rise, so is the demand for the company’s bio-energy products.

We need to start looking into investing in Eastern red cedar harvesting. It is estimated that the state loses $447 million due to the Eastern red cedar, a large portion of which is because of the way it ruins agricultural land and drains water at such a terrible rate. Moreover the trees put our brave firefights at risk.

I’m hoping my fellow lawmakers will get involved in legislation to boost the red cedar harvesting. Though I’m not yet sure what that legislation will be, I assure you it will be a win-win for all rural Oklahomans.

As always, I would love to hear from you. I can be reached at the Capitol at (405) 557-7407.

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