Researchers develop guide to fighting redcedar invasion

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Researchers develop guide to fighting redcedar invasion

Aerial photo of redcedar trees on prairie
Christine Bielski | Agronomy and Horticulture

A University of Nebraska–Lincoln project to improve efforts against redcedar invasions has received an $81,690 grant from the Nebraska Environmental Trust.

Recent partnerships among scientists, agencies and landowner coalitions have resulted in a growing interest for a statewide plan to the woody invasion problem. A sense of urgency has led to calls for coordination of a unified vision that strategically protects the last remaining large intact grassland regions in the central Great Plains and halts the continued expansion of woody invasion at scales necessary for sustaining grassland wildlife.


Dirac Twidwell, the principal investigator, and Dillon Fogarty, project coordinator, developed that unified vision with the publication of their vulnerability guide, “Reducing woody encroachment in grasslands: A guide for understanding risk and vulnerability.” The guide provides the first solutions-based framework for managing woody invasions and sustaining the state’s last iconic grassland regions.

With more than 19,000 copies distributed throughout the Great Plains, Fogarty said the vulnerability guide has been a game changer in terms of the strategies being used to tackle woody invasions on private and public lands. “We’ve never seen such rapid adoption of new management strategies at this scale.”

The guide sets out a scientific foundation for the new Nebraska Great Plains Grassland Initiative, which represents a new effort to sustain the state’s last best grasslands. The initiative has become a rallying point for grassland conservation in the state and is supported by more than a dozen organizations representing private and public lands. Partners estimate that new best management practices outlined in the guide save between $25 and $500 per acre compared to past guidance for managing woody invasions.

Fogarty said this is a big part of solving the woody invasion problem. “With strategies that are more cost-effective and sustainable long-term, partners in the Great Plains Grassland Initiative can impact more acres with the same amount of funding. This is a key step toward halting the expansion of woody plants, which currently outpaces management in Nebraska.”

The project builds upon the combined efforts of the Nebraska Natural Resource Conservation Service, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and the university, which have resulted in increased awareness of the scope of this problem; its implications for the profitability, productivity and diversity of working lands in the state; and new ways to strategically target and manage eastern redcedar invasions.

This year’s grant is the third year the project has received NET support.

The Nebraska Legislature created the NET in 1992. Using revenue from the Nebraska Lottery, the trust has provided more than $349 million in grants to more than 2,400 projects across the state. Anyone — citizens, organizations, communities, farmers and businesses — can apply for funding to protect habitat, improve water quality and establish recycling programs in Nebraska. The NET works to preserve, protect and restore the state’s natural resources for future generations.

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