Oklahoma’s 10 million acres of forestlands are among the most diverse in the nation; ranging from the dense pine and hardwood stands of eastern Oklahoma, through the unique Cross Timbers of the central counties, to the riparian forests of our western rivers. The diversity of Oklahoma’s landscape presents many natural resource management challenges. Most of Oklahoma’s forestlands are privately owned and are facing significant threats from insects and disease, urbanization, invasive species, and wildfire. To continue to enjoy the benefits provided by the state’s trees and forests, it is important that Oklahomans work together to conserve, enhance and protect our forests and natural resources for present and future generations. The Oklahoma Forest Resource Assessment and Strategy combined provide a comprehensive overview of the state’s forest resources and the critical issues our forests face as well as long-term strategies to address priority forestlands.
The post oak – blackjack oak forest type commonly known as the Cross Timbers is a large woodland area extending from north central Texas through Oklahoma into south Kansas and east Arkansas. Because this forest type is essentially noncommercial for timber production, it has never experienced large scale industrial logging. Large tracts of old growth post oak and blackjack oak forests are found throughout central Oklahoma with trees as old as 200 to 400 years. The Cross Timbers are underappreciated because these small stature trees do not fit the stereotypical view of a forest. Research in the Cross Timbers is limited, and our failure to understand these “ancient” forests is contributing to their ongoing destruction and fragmentation, which is a major threat to biodiversity, water quality, and recreational values.
Wildfires threaten forest resources and their associated benefits and values, Oklahoma residents, and their property; therefore many resources are utilized to suppress wildfires. Fire suppression has allowed fuel loads to increase. Many people moving to small forested tracts do not consider the wildfire risks associated with living in the wildland urban interface. In the past, prescribed fire was utilized more often as a management tool yet many people do not realize the benefits of fire on ecosystems. Fire suppression is important because wildfires damage property and threaten the safety of firefighters and citizens, but proper management ahead of time can drastically decrease the risk of damage or injury in the event of a wildfire. Oklahomans need awareness of the tools and management options that will increase their safety and help them become more prepared for wildfires.
Forests provide sustainable supplies of clean water. Maintaining healthy forest watersheds and riparian forests in rural areas, and protecting forest cover in developing areas, are essential to meeting the needs of the state’s citizens for clean water. Climate change, increased drought frequency and intensity and changes in precipitation patterns are increasing the importance of raising awareness and better managing our forest resources to protect drinking water sources, sustain stream flows, protect aquatic wildlife species, and to reduce sedimentation and water treatment costs.