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Agricultural News

Drought and Fire Relief Measure HB1075 Heads to Senate

Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:39:28 CDT

Drought and Fire Relief Measure HB1075 Heads to Senate "I am pleased to know that we are finally moving in the right direction on drought and fire relief, with passage of HB1075," Oklahoma City Democrat Rep. Richard Morrissette, District 92, said.

Announced by Gov. Mary Fallin, March 11, 2015, was Water Appreciation Day. During the legislative interim, two Oklahoma State University scientists, Dr. Rod Will, Professor of Forestry and Professor Chris Zou, Ecohydrology and Ecosystems, delivered a presentation to underscore what the Oklahoma Conservation Commission has been telling us for years, eastern red cedars are spreading at a rate of 700 acres per day and drinking up Oklahoma water at a staggering rate, to be clipped by House Bill 1075.

Another OSU professor, Dr. Dave Engle, Regent's Professor of Rangeland Ecology, is analyzing the data from the Will and Zou studies and says that net water loss to red cedar canopy is 21 percent of the total precipitation: "In some conditions, removing redcedar and re-establishing grass may result in an increase in groundwater recharge-. Eastern redcedar in the immediate area upstream of the pond where runoff collects also should be removed. Landowners may see an increase of flow into ponds as a result-landowners should consider removing Eastern redcedars growing near the shores of ponds where the trees' root systems have access to pond water."

With Oklahoma ranchers under attack facing "drought extinction," preserving ponds and streams for livestock is critical and cedar removal is the first line of offense in surviving this battle.

"Many diverse partners ranging from county officials, state agency heads and associations such as the Oklahoma Farm Bureau assisted me with advice on water loss and property rights and how to better notify those absentee land owners who have unwittingly become infested with eastern red cedar. I was also able to improve this year's version of HB1075, the Oklahoma Resource Reclamation Act, in the area of respecting personal property rights by way of last session's bill by Rep. Steve Martin, Property Rights Act HB2620. So, the current version of the bill is a real bipartisan compilation," Morrissette said.

"We want to create something that is fair for everyone. If a rancher has lost his ponds to a neighbor's cedar infestation, that is not an example of neighbors working together to respect each other's GOD given rights. That is one land owner with an unfair advantage over the other and we can work out these issues without trampling on personal property rights. The bill DOES NOT require the creation of any list of offenders, it just allows local officials to have the tax commission send a notice of information, along with other regular tax commission communications, to inform an absentee land owner of an existing infestation."

The bill also assists Oklahomans with the addition of a state coordinator to perform community outreach and to access available grants to help pay for cedar removal as well as to set up an entity to begin to look at using cedar biofuel pellets for personal heating stoves. An in-lieu of treatment for those who have removed cedar below essentially non-taxable TIMBERWASTE, for the purpose of reviving the land and taxable rate, is also a feature. And, a request item from the Oklahoma Central Purchasing Department to have all manufacturers wishing to obtain state contracts become registered as venders is also a part of this year's version of the Oklahoma Resource Reclamation Act 2015.

The legislation was approved by a Thursday and now proceeds to the Oklahoma Senate for consideration.



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