Eastern red cedar encroachment into the Nebraska Sandhills threatens native grasslands and their inhabitants, including people, plants, and animals. Increased Eastern red cedar encroachment into intact grasslands s reduces the quality and quantity of the grazing resource for livestock and native habitat for wildlife. Intact grasslands are characterized as treeless landscapes dominated by grass plant species. They have not been invaded by woody plants, such as Eastern Red Cedar, but may have a small component of native shrubs and broadleaf plants. Woody encroachment begins through seed dispersal, followed by seedling maturity, and further encroachment when the initial seedlings reach maturity. Landscapes that have transitioned from intact grasslands to woodlands experience severe changes in functionality. They no longer provide the same goods and services as a grassland, supporting different types of plants and animals. There are many resources available to help landowners learn more and control woody encroachment on their grazing lands. Methods of control are varied and benefit not only livestock production but also wildlife.
Guidance for Eastern Red Cedar Management
Reacting to Eastern Red Cedar encroachment after trees have taken over makes it impossible to avoid rangeland production losses. If the management of seed sources does not change, the problem worsens as trees keep expanding into formerly treeless grasslands.
Guidance is available. Developed as a collaborative effort among rangeland scientists in the Great Plains, two guidebooks outline a more cost-efficient and proactive approach for mitigating rangeland loss and reversing its effects.
A science guide that details a better approach for addressing woody encroachment across America's grasslands, including Eastern Red Cedar in the Nebraska Sandhills! Click the image to download and read the full guide.
A comprehensive science-based tool for landowners and conservationists working to combat woody encroachment across America's grasslands, including Eastern Red Cedar in the Nebraska Sandhills! Click the image to download and read the full guide.
Rangeland Production Losses
Eastern Red Cedar encroachment of rangelands significantly reduces herbaceous production in the Nebraska Sandhills. Trees are able to out-compete grasses and broad-leafed plants for limited resources. This lost production has impacts on the ranching operation's ability to produce livestock and maintain profitability.
A web application has been created to help landowners and conservationists visualize the loss of rangelands due to woody encroachments across the Great Plains. Researchers from the University of Montanna researchers affiliated with Working Lands for Wildlife (WLFW) used the power of the Range Analysis Platform (RAP) to track changes in vegetation cover and production from 1990 through 2019. These changes were analyzed, and researchers quantified the "yield gap" or differences between the actual herbaceous production (after trees moved in) and potential herbaceous production (in the absence of trees). Data is broken down into state and county for each of 17 western states, including Nebraska.