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Managing eastern red cedar encroachment on grazing lands

Courtesy photoA member of LCRA ignites a fire to start a prescribed burn on the Loess Canyon rangeland.

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A Nebraska group is fighting back against eastern red cedar populations on their land by using prescribed burning practices. It started as a project by Doug Whisenhunt, a Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) state prescribed burn specialist, to embed prescribed first into the local ranching culture of Loess Canyon, an area located south of North Platte, NE, back in 2001.

The 500,000 acres that make up the Loess Canyons rangeland is mostly native warm-season mixed-grass prairie with a 40 percent canopy cover of invading eastern red cedar. The steep slopes make the area generally inaccessible. Cedar encroachment in the area is increasing at a rate of 2 percent closure a year. “A regional forester said there would be complete canopy cover in 40 years if something wasn’t done,” Whisenhunt stated. “A closed canopy would eliminate all vegetation necessary for wildlife diversity and livestock grazing. Ranchers in the area have already reported losing 50 percent of their grazing capacity in the last 40 years,” he continued.

Area rancher Scott Stout said when his father-in-law incorporated in 1972, cedar encroachment was unheard of. “Those few little trees out in the pasture were welcomed as shade for the cows,” he said. “The ranch back then was running around 8-10 acres per cow-calf pair. The situation got progressively worse throughout the following 25 years. Prior to 2007, the ranch was running 13-15 acres per cow-calf pair, land prices were high, and lease rates were $15-$17 an acre. That figured up to $224 average per cow-calf pair for a 5.5 month grazing period.”



Landowners had attempted to control the eastern red cedar using an axe and a torch, and cutting and stuffing the trees using a Bobcat, but seedlings continued to overtake the area. “The landowners needed to work together and implement prescribed burns to control the growing eastern red cedar population,” Whisenhunt said.

A Nebraska group is fighting back against eastern red cedar populations on their land by using prescribed burning practices. It started as a project by Doug Whisenhunt, a Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) state prescribed burn specialist, to embed prescribed first into the local ranching culture of Loess Canyon, an area located south of North Platte, NE, back in 2001.



The 500,000 acres that make up the Loess Canyons rangeland is mostly native warm-season mixed-grass prairie with a 40 percent canopy cover of invading eastern red cedar. The steep slopes make the area generally inaccessible. Cedar encroachment in the area is increasing at a rate of 2 percent closure a year. “A regional forester said there would be complete canopy cover in 40 years if something wasn’t done,” Whisenhunt stated. “A closed canopy would eliminate all vegetation necessary for wildlife diversity and livestock grazing. Ranchers in the area have already reported losing 50 percent of their grazing capacity in the last 40 years,” he continued.

Area rancher Scott Stout said when his father-in-law incorporated in 1972, cedar encroachment was unheard of. “Those few little trees out in the pasture were welcomed as shade for the cows,” he said. “The ranch back then was running around 8-10 acres per cow-calf pair. The situation got progressively worse throughout the following 25 years. Prior to 2007, the ranch was running 13-15 acres per cow-calf pair, land prices were high, and lease rates were $15-$17 an acre. That figured up to $224 average per cow-calf pair for a 5.5 month grazing period.”

Landowners had attempted to control the eastern red cedar using an axe and a torch, and cutting and stuffing the trees using a Bobcat, but seedlings continued to overtake the area. “The landowners needed to work together and implement prescribed burns to control the growing eastern red cedar population,” Whisenhunt said.

A Nebraska group is fighting back against eastern red cedar populations on their land by using prescribed burning practices. It started as a project by Doug Whisenhunt, a Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) state prescribed burn specialist, to embed prescribed first into the local ranching culture of Loess Canyon, an area located south of North Platte, NE, back in 2001.

The 500,000 acres that make up the Loess Canyons rangeland is mostly native warm-season mixed-grass prairie with a 40 percent canopy cover of invading eastern red cedar. The steep slopes make the area generally inaccessible. Cedar encroachment in the area is increasing at a rate of 2 percent closure a year. “A regional forester said there would be complete canopy cover in 40 years if something wasn’t done,” Whisenhunt stated. “A closed canopy would eliminate all vegetation necessary for wildlife diversity and livestock grazing. Ranchers in the area have already reported losing 50 percent of their grazing capacity in the last 40 years,” he continued.

Area rancher Scott Stout said when his father-in-law incorporated in 1972, cedar encroachment was unheard of. “Those few little trees out in the pasture were welcomed as shade for the cows,” he said. “The ranch back then was running around 8-10 acres per cow-calf pair. The situation got progressively worse throughout the following 25 years. Prior to 2007, the ranch was running 13-15 acres per cow-calf pair, land prices were high, and lease rates were $15-$17 an acre. That figured up to $224 average per cow-calf pair for a 5.5 month grazing period.”

Landowners had attempted to control the eastern red cedar using an axe and a torch, and cutting and stuffing the trees using a Bobcat, but seedlings continued to overtake the area. “The landowners needed to work together and implement prescribed burns to control the growing eastern red cedar population,” Whisenhunt said.

A Nebraska group is fighting back against eastern red cedar populations on their land by using prescribed burning practices. It started as a project by Doug Whisenhunt, a Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) state prescribed burn specialist, to embed prescribed first into the local ranching culture of Loess Canyon, an area located south of North Platte, NE, back in 2001.

The 500,000 acres that make up the Loess Canyons rangeland is mostly native warm-season mixed-grass prairie with a 40 percent canopy cover of invading eastern red cedar. The steep slopes make the area generally inaccessible. Cedar encroachment in the area is increasing at a rate of 2 percent closure a year. “A regional forester said there would be complete canopy cover in 40 years if something wasn’t done,” Whisenhunt stated. “A closed canopy would eliminate all vegetation necessary for wildlife diversity and livestock grazing. Ranchers in the area have already reported losing 50 percent of their grazing capacity in the last 40 years,” he continued.

Area rancher Scott Stout said when his father-in-law incorporated in 1972, cedar encroachment was unheard of. “Those few little trees out in the pasture were welcomed as shade for the cows,” he said. “The ranch back then was running around 8-10 acres per cow-calf pair. The situation got progressively worse throughout the following 25 years. Prior to 2007, the ranch was running 13-15 acres per cow-calf pair, land prices were high, and lease rates were $15-$17 an acre. That figured up to $224 average per cow-calf pair for a 5.5 month grazing period.”

Landowners had attempted to control the eastern red cedar using an axe and a torch, and cutting and stuffing the trees using a Bobcat, but seedlings continued to overtake the area. “The landowners needed to work together and implement prescribed burns to control the growing eastern red cedar population,” Whisenhunt said.


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