The statewide "census for trees" provides a science-based foundation for better management of the land and helps identify brushlands and encroaching woody vegetation. The invasive woody vegetation can soak up water and shade out the sun that rangeland grass needs to grow, which creates a problem for cattle raisers.
The inventory is a 10-year process that began in January 2004 and won’t be complete until 2014. Despite being just halfway through, results are expected to remain fairly steady. Once complete, the second 10-year cycle will begin, allowing for data comparison.
The results also show that Texas is positioned to profit from alternative energy and ecosystem service markets focused on carbon sequestration and the conversion of woody biomass to energy. The inventory provides comprehensive data for local, state and regional decision-makers to better plan, set policy and allocate resources.
According to Shawn Whitley, Regional Fire Coordinator, for the Abilene office of the Texas Forest Service mesquites, juniper and salt cedars are the problem here in the Big Country for ranchers and for enhancing wildfires. Ranchers have been working hard to reduce the number of these trees in our area. These trees soak up all the precious water here in West Texas, not to mention cause a mess with wildfires. Whitley focused on juniper saying that "with this type of vegetation you can get a lot leaf litter under them. They have very small leaves and you have a lot of compaction over time and a fire can basically stay going and smoldering in these leaves for several days and even weeks."