Eastern Red Cedar Thickets


I've got 200 acres in Bracken County, KY. The big thing on our place is Eastern Red Cedar. If you don't know about it, it's an incredible tree. It seems to grow in the dead of winter. I just got back from my first trip down in 2018. There are hundreds of cedar trees pushing up through the dead grass all around the curtilage. There are 2-foot tall trees growing in the fencelines that I missed last year. Basically, if you don't mow a spot, within a year, there will be a cedar tree growing there.

When the biologist made his visit 17 years ago, he told me to start cutting cedar in the oak/hickory stands as the ash trees got to about knee high. I've done it, but I have not been able to keep up. Whenever I feel I have excess energy, I go out and cut a few. I'm in my 60th year, so that is becoming a rarer occurance. I'm also doing my best to keep the cedars from blocking my view from the house, and taking over the shore of the fishing pond. My chief concern now is what to do with the in-between spots.

I have a 5-acre pasture that was all grass when I moved in. It had recently had cattle grazing in it. Now, 17 years later, I've got a hillside full of cedar. Some are getting 20 feet tall. Ditto for a couple of acres at the margin of one of my pastures. The hay dude stopped mowing it, because it was just too rocky and never produced enough hay to be worthwhile. Withing 5 years of moving in, it was starting to grow up. It is now a filled with 10-footers. These two areas have become awesome deer habitat.

Then you've got the cedar jungle. There's an acre or so on a hillside at the bottom is one of our larger creeks. It was well-nigh impenterable when I moved in. Now it's becoming accessible again as the bottom 6 feet of the cedars are dying off from lack of light. I had to chase a buck in there last fall. It was the first time I'd been in it in 15 years. The last time it was on hands and knees. Now, I could stand up. The buck had taken one in the chest and run in there to die. I found him about 50 yards in and 50 yards from down from the top. I brought in the deer wagon and winched him out. It's a whole other world in there. It is like a perpetual twilight. There is a thick carpet of cedar needles and that is about it. There isn't enough light to support anything.


1) Besides removing the mature cedars from the hardwoods and keeping as much pasture as possible open, what else should I be doing with these cedars?
2) What should I be doing with the cedar jungle? I've thought about clearing out a path in the middle, but I'm sure as soon as I do, the cedars will just fill it back in. Leave it? Hunt it? I could probably spend a morning each season stalking through it with a 12 GA slug gun.
3) Is there any market for this stuff? I thought about buying a portable sawmill after I retire. Some of these cedars are getting pretty large.
There is a market for ERC. In the county just south of me, there is one sawmill that saws nothing but ERC. I would think that there are other mills such as this one. But, it takes a long time to grow them to marketable size. I don't remember the name of the mill, but you might Google it and find it. That is in Wayne County, KY.

ERC makes better habitat trees IMHO when they are spaced out enough to prevent the loss of bottom limbs like you describe. You can do this by promoting them in fence rows or just doing some selective mowing out in a field where they are coming up as volunteers. I love an NWSG (or tall weed) field that has a few ERCs dappled here and there + fence rows around the fields with ERCs. Places like this are deer bedding magnets. A solid cedar thicket where bottom limbs are dying eventually loses the cover value. It thins out and the deer know that you can see them from a long distance, so it is used less when they feel pressure.

In your oak and hickory stands, the hardwoods will eventually outdistance and shade out the competing cedars. You just have to help them get the advantage in the beginning.
I think you already know the answer. Cut them cut them and then cut them some more. They love poor south facing soils. A few can be nice but like an invasive vine, they can take over a landscape in short order preventing any other type of tree from taking hold especially more deer bedding or feeding type trees. Deer do like to browse them in late winter. And in moderation they do bed within them. But allow them to take hold and I doubt a human has the abililty to then control them without a lot of expended sweat. You are welcome to practice your cuttings on mine. The wood does make some sweet table fare displays that I've done before.
And pile them when you cut them as rabbits love to den in the stack.
Has anyone heard about the companies that will come on your property and remove ERC, turning it into bagged pet litter as they go?

Here was what I was thinking of doing with the thickest thicket. There is a blind on top of the hill overlooking the pasture. I was thinkin of cutting a swath all the way to the creek that was in a direct line to the blind, and then taking the center portion and widening it out.

What say y'all?
Burning will kill cedar, controlled burns on a 3-5yr rotation may help with some of your pasture land.

For cutting and clearing it's hard to beat a skidsteer with clippers on it. You can use the clippers to pick up the tree after you cut it and move it anywhere you want (either piles or lines). Clippers also take the stump to ground level which is nice for mowing.

I like your plan of cutting paths and clearings.
From the Noble research institute .....

"There are three methods to control or kill cedars: fire, mechanical and chemical."

"Fire originally controlled cedars. With adequate fuel and under safe prescribed burning conditions, fire will control most cedars less than 6 feet tall. Unfortunately, many cedars have grown so large that prescribed fire is no longer an effective management tool. Prescribed fire is now viewed as a maintenance tool to control new and young cedars, but not the best choice to kill larger, established trees. For larger trees, chemical or mechanical control methods are usually best."

"Common chemical recommendations include Velpar®, Tordon® and Pronone® Power Pellets. Velpar® and Tordon® are liquid chemicals that can be applied to the soil under cedars. Tordon® can also be applied to the foliage of an individual tree to reduce exposure to desirable plants. Labels for Velpar® and Tordon® do not recommend use on cedar trees larger than 15 feet tall. Pronone® Power Pellets have the same active ingredient that is in Velpar®, but in a pellet form. Pellets are placed under a tree (one to two per inch of stem diameter) and require ¼ to ½ inch of rainfall to dissolve into the soil. All of the above chemicals can kill other woody plants in the immediate area. These chemicals are best used when only the target species will be exposed to the herbicide. When using herbicides, always read and follow the label instructions." Useful to kill off large dense clusters

"Mechanical methods include chain saws, bow saws, lopping shears, axes, dozers and skid loaders with shears or saws. Hand tools are very selective, but are labor intensive. Dozers can be effective; however, they can cause a great deal of soil disturbance. Skid loaders with shears or saws are selective and very effective."

"Regardless of the control method, try targeting "the women and children first" to maximize efficiency. One female cedar tree can produce thousands of seeds and younger trees are easier to control. Cedar has its place, but it has started to take more than its fair share."

Emphasis added __________________________
If you are trying to cut the smaller ones a stihl power cutter is great on those that are a few feet tall and no bending over.If you cut a cedar below the lowest limbs you will kill it 99% of the time.If bigger I would go in and cut where you have say 10ft between them and get the grass to grow.Leave it thicker in some areas.I also think you can cut some of the lower limbs off on south side and deer will bed there.I shed hunted a new place last weekend and we actually found half the sheds in cedar thickets that were so thick everything was dead underneath and you had to break your way through.I am one of the few people that moves cedars every year
Well spaced cedars maintained with equipment occasionally to control the space between are the backbone of my prime bedding. Put broomsedge between cedars and you will hold deer around here.

I transplant and treat them with kid gloves for screens.

I think maintaining open ground is where they can become problematic.
Glyphosate kills cedar dead, dead, dead! No need to spray the entire tree, just give is a dose.
We don’t have any problems getting ERC to grow in fence lines. Birds eat the berries, lite on the barbed wire fence and next thing you know there’s cedars popping up everywhere.

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Here Red Cedar grows sparsely and it pretty much grows on extra poor ground where few other trees can grow so it is not so bad. In fact it helps deer during the winter when the snow gets really deep and packed and many types of browse are unreachable beneath the deer. Cut cedars dragged into favored spots whole act as protective sanctuaries from the critters causing regrowth to thrive. If it wasn't for Cedar Apple Rust(CAR) I'd be planting red cedars here and in fact I did plant a hundred or so twenty years ago before we knew what CAR was.

It simply does not grow in this area in problem proportions as others find it grows in their areas.