I know a lot of central Texans that suffer with cedar fever and wish there were more cedar choppers out there who would bull doze them all down. They think that if they do, it will not only help their allergies, but bring back all the water to our drying soil. What they are not realizing is that it would be ecologically devastating and impossible to do so. Cedar covers over 24 million acres of Edwards Plateau and provides year round drought tolerant greenery for erosion control, cooling protection for the soil, shelter for a lot of wildlife, and not to mention, raw materials for the fence post industry. What would we do for fencing and late night campfires if it were not for the ash juniper? There are some like the green guru that think the resinous aroma of cedar makes life worth living, in Texas.
The truth about cedar is that adult trees in moist conditions can absorb up to 32 gallons of water a day from the soil, whereas cypress trees absorb hundreds of gallons per day, since when did you see a campaign against them? In 2002 a study was done by a non-profit called American Forests, they found that since 1985, San Antonio has lost 45,000 acres of dense (mostly cedar) tree cover due to development. These trees had more than aesthetic value… If preserved the trees could have soaked up more than 3 million pounds of CO2 a year and saved the city $146 million dollars in drainage costs to control floodwaters and erosion. Unless one is willing to plant another evergreen tree for every cedar they cut down, their choice is contributing to global warming, soil erosion, and flooding.
If we have some nice oaks we would like to focus our attention to and allow to grow fully by cutting surrounding cedar that is one thing, cutting them down only to leave soil that will erode or crack in the sun is another. Dr. Charles Taylor, Jr. of the Texas Agriculture Experiment and Research Station, suggests the use of goats to control new cedar growth on your land and allow for more grazing area. Goats seem to like the young cedars and are a great sustainable way of keeping new cedar growth to a minimum.
I cringe at the sight of the scarred Wimberley hilltops whose owners felt was necessary to denude. With only a few tenuous oaks dotting the land, the fragility makes you wonder if there wasn’t a sacred balance ripped away from the hillside. Their soil soon will be baked in the heat of the Texas sun and eroded away in the wind or next gully washer. The cedar choppers are saying, “But, cedar trees weren’t here 500 years ago!” Well, neither were we…. And there are now 23 million Texans.
The green guru asks those who feel that cedar is the culprit of central Texas water shortages, since the average Texan uses 60 gallons of water a day, what could we learn from the cedar tree.
Quote of the Month: “ The bulldozer and not the atomic bomb may turn out to be the most destructive invention of the 20th century.” Philip Shabecoff, New York Times Magazine, 4 June 1978