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Tuesday
Jan022018

Upper Loup NRD's Efforts to Decrease Eastern Red Cedar Invasion

The Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana) is a tree native to much of Nebraska and is one of the few conifer species that grows well in our sandy soils.  Historically, cedar windbreaks have been used in the Sandhills as protection around houses and as protection for livestock from storms.  However, it has been rapidly expanding into locations and habitats where it was formerly rare or unknow.  When this happens, it can threaten livestock production, grassland wildlife, water resources as well as public safety from wildfires.  Thus, becoming an increasing ecological and economic issue. 

Cattle production declines as much as 75 percent after grasslands are invaded by cedar. Cedars shade out grasses beneath their canopies, directly removing grass available to cattle, while also reducing grass health and species diversity.

Cedar invasion also affects the ability to reduce the risk of, and suppress, wildfires.

Cedar invasion reduces water availability because of its increased water use and interception compared to range grasses and forbs. Cedar may also change stream and river channels and alter flows.

There are several methods to control or kill cedars that the Upper Loup NRD provides cost share assistance for.  Eligible practices include: biological (grazing or insects), mechanical (use of hand methods and or larger equipment), chemical (only those approved by the Nebraska Department of Agriculture may be used, and in accordance with label directions), and prescribed burns (in accordance with NRCS burn policies and procedures).

Another option is not planting cedars.  At the December board meeting the Directors voted to discontinue cost-sharing on cedar trees, planting, mulching and providing drip line for cedar trees. The NRD understands that there are some producers that like the cedars and want to continue to plant them.  Therefore, the Upper Loup will continue to order, sell, plant and mulch cedars for those producers however, all costs associated with the cedars will be at the producer’s expense. 

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