Recently many conservation oriented people received a press release by a Texas A&M University researcher that alarmed and confused them in regard to the management of cedar on their property. I can understand why as the release that came to me was very poorly written, left out important information needed to make land management decisions and, in my opinion, was very misleading. I did later, however, receive other versions that were much better and I have now had the opportunity to read the entire research paper.
There is a proverb that says only fools and children criticize unfinished work. This is analogous to reading the early press release on the subject and criticizing the work before we got to study the full report.
What I believe is so very important and from what I can see in this work that is omitted is: 1) It leaves out the different ecological site types where cedar has been removed; and 2) It assumes that the land will be bare after cedar removal.
There have been dozens of research papers written on the cedar issue, hundreds of hands-on experiences, such as my own, that report the increase in ground water and return of springs and even creeks that resulted from cedar removal and restoration of grasslands. This, while not pure science, is definitely not anecdotal. Here are numbers given to me years ago by the Texas Agriculture Experiment Station at Sonora, Texas showing the amount of water that reaches the soil from a one inch rain under different woody species:
Influence of Canopy Cover on Amount of Water Reaching Mineral Soil
|Type Plant||% Interception Loss||% Litter Interception Loss||%H2O Reaching Mineral Soil|
It does not take scientific studies to see or accept the obvious – rainfall on bare ground runs off taking away precious soil with it, creating erosion and leaving gullies behind. But establishing grass after cedar removal on sites promotes more underground water and spring flow and more food and shelter not only for cattle but for all wildlife. So it’s good economics and good for our quality of life.
I do not claim to be a scientist, but I have spent 41 years on this very subject and my experience is well noted. I have never advocated removal of all the cedar and in fact still have four or five hundred acres of it. My experience with the return of springs and creeks is shared by countless other landowners.
This article appeared in Austin American Statesman on October 25. 1995:
This article was printed in the San Antonio Express News of May 4, 1997:
The following statements are from a 1994 Juniper Symposium held at the Texas A&M University Research Station at Sonora; chapter 4 written by Thomas L. Thurow and Deirdre H. Charlson. Their full papers could still be available.
Below is a summary statement on a research paper presented by Thomas L. Thurow and Justin W. Hester at the 1997 Juniper Symposium held at the Texas A&M Research and Extension Center in San Angelo, Texas:
The following statement was taken from the summary of a lengthy paper written by F. E. Smeins, M. K. Owens and S. D. Fuhlendorf. It was titled, “Biology and ecology of Ashe (Blueberry) Juniper” and published by the Texas A&M University Research Station at Sonora - April 14, 1994:
Once again, I do not claim to be an expert on brush management and most certainly not on soil ecology which could alter the results of cedar removal, but when all the science, research and testimony is studied the net result is clear. Properly managed cedar removal followed up with good grass cover is good for water, for livestock, wildlife and people.
Which side of the fence would you prefer?
Should you want to study the reporting of other scientists you will find the following useful:
- Smeins, F.E. 1990. Ashe juniper, consumer of Edwards Plateau rangeland. Texas Agricultural Experiment Station Technical Report, 90-1.
- Blomquist, K.W. 1990. Selected life history and synecological characteristics of Ashe juniper on the Edwards Plateau of Texas. M.S. Thesis, Dep. Rangeland Ecology and Management, Texas A&M Univ., College Station, TX. 108 p.
- Doescher, P.S., L.E. Eddleman and M. R. Vaitkus 1987. Evaluation of soil nutrients, pH, and organic matter in rangelands dominated by western juniper. Northwest Science 61:97-102
- Fuhlendorf, S.D. 1992. Influence of age/size and grazing history on understory relationships of Ashe juniper. M.S. Thesis, Dep. Rangeland Ecology and Management, Texas A&M Univ., College Station, TX. 79 p.
- Holmstead, G.L. 1989. Water-use and growth of three C4 bunchgrasses: Evaluation under field and controlled environment conditions. M.S. Thesis, Dep. Rangeland Ecology and Management 144 pp.
- Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board 1991. A comprehensive study of Texas watersheds and their impacts on water quality and water quantity. Texas State Soil and water Conservation Board, Temple, TX. 104 p.
- Wright, H.A., F.M. Churchill, and W.C. Stevens 1975. Effects of prescribed burning on sediment, water yield, and water quality from dozed juniper lands in Central Texas. Journal of Range Management 29:294-298.
- Yager, L. Y. 1993. Canopy, litter and allelopatic effects of Ashe juniper (Juniperus ashei, Buchholz) on understory vegetation. M.S. Thesis, Dep. Rangeland Ecology and Management, Texas A&M Univ., College Station, TX. 109 p.