Although Oklahoma is often perceived as a vast treeless prairie, a recent project by the State Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry shows this impression to be far from the truth. State Forester John Burwell said, “We hope that our statewide assessment of the forest resources of Oklahoma will finally shatter this mythical remnant of the Dust Bowl, because Oklahoma has almost 10 million acres of forestland covering nearly 23% of the state!
This is just one of the many interesting facts about Oklahoma’s forests included in the Oklahoma Forest Resource Assessment, the culmination of an eighteen-month project recently completed by the State Forestry Division. Oklahoma Forestry Services participated in this nation-wide effort to analyze the forests of each state and the issues which face them.
The Assessment contains many little known facts about Oklahoma’s forests that may surprise readers such as:
- Oklahoma has one of the most diverse natural landscapes of any state, with nine different forest types and over 150 species of trees.
- Our state has the largest remaining tracts of Cross Timbers, one of the most ancient forest types in the United States.
- 90 % of Oklahoma’s forests are owned by private landowners.
- Sawmills are spread across the state and range in size from small mills near Woodward and Edmond to the larger mills of eastern Oklahoma where the timber industry provides over 10,000 forestry related jobs, with annual value of product shipments of more than $2.5 billion.
- The very first shelterbelt planted under President Franklin Roosevelt’s Prairie States Shelterbelt Program, in 1935, is located near Mangum, Oklahoma.
Oklahoma’s forests provide significant benefits to the state’s citizens in addition to forest products, including clean water and air, wildlife habitat, erosion control, community livability, scenic beauty, carbon sequestration and recreational opportunities. Burwell said, “Although Oklahoma’s forests are generally healthy and productive, they and these associated benefits we all rely on could be lost if the State and our partners do not address the issues and threats identified in the Assessment. We worked with many agencies, private citizens and foresters across Oklahoma to identify these issues and develop strategies that will shape the way we utilize and grow our forests in the future.”
The six critical issues identified were forest health and sustainability, economics and markets, water quality and quantity, community forests health and care, wildfire risks and the impact of climate change on Oklahoma’s forest resources.
“We are encouraging Oklahomans to visit our website and read the Assessment. We believe they will be truly amazed at the breadth and depth of our forestlands here in Oklahoma,” said Erin Johnson, forest resource planner and the Assessment project lead.
If you would like to learn more visit http://www.forestry.ok.gov/2010-assessment-final-documents or contact Erin Johnson at 405-288-2385 or George Geissler at 405-522-6158.
Posted on Wed, June 30, 2010
by Blayne Arthur, ODAFF (405) 522-6056