Redcedar Utilization

Author(s): Adam Smith
Wednesday, September 11, 2019
Cedar logs stacked.

Eastern redcedar management has become a topic of much discussion. Identifying utilization and wood products opportunities for redcedar wood will be key to increasing management and reducing its impact on the landscape.

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Redcedar Background

Eastern redcedar (cedar) is a native tree that has always been a fixture on the Nebraska landscape, providing valuable wood products, wind and soil protection and habitat for a variety of species of wildlife. However, the rapid spread of cedar is an increasingly serious ecological and economic issue with substantial impacts statewide.

While cedar management has largely centered around the use of prescribed fire and mechanical equipment, the development of wood products and markets for cedar material could increase harvest and management, while providing an economic boost for rural communities, businesses, and landowners.

Cedar wood waste
When wood markets are not available, cedar wood waste is piled and burned.  

Cedar Wood Characteristics

While cedar is sometimes portrayed as being a low-quality wood resource, some characteristics of cedar make it well-suited for use in wood products. 

  • When growing in dense stands of trees, cedars grow tall and straight trunks, desirable for use in producing sawlog products such as lumber 
  • As cedars mature, the heartwood (wood at the center of the trees) becomes an attractive deep red or purple color with a pale yellow outer sapwood 
  • Regarded as having excellent resistance to decay and insect attack, making it very durable 
  • Has a very aromatic scent making it a preferred species for interior finishings and closet lining 
  • Wood is considered easy to work with and glues and finishes well 
  • Shrinks less during drying than other species

Cedar Products Produced

Traditional Wood Products Nebraska’s forest products industry has embraced cedar as a valuable resource in Nebraska’s forests. Suitable for many applications, cedar is currently used to produce a variety of wood products including:

  • Green lumber
  • Kiln-dried lumber 
  • Interior paneling 
  • Fence posts 
  • Finished furniture 
  • Cabinets and countertops 
  • Shingles and siding 
  • Animal bedding

Processed Wood Products While the characteristics of cedar wood in larger trees make it suitable for manufacturing traditional wood products, low-quality materials such as small trees, branches, and sawmill waste are also used to make a variety of products including:

  • Woody biomass heating fuel to heat the campus of the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture
  • Woodchips road underlayment to reduce erosion on farm roads and center pivot irrigation tracks
  • Compost and other soil amendments
Cedar lumber
Cedar lumber produced at The Sawle Mill in Springview, NE.  

Importance of Cedar Utilization

Developing wood products using cedar is a crucial tool for addressing cedar impacts across the landscape. Unlike most management strategies, wood products manufacturing:

  • Provides the opportunity for economic gain for the landowner through the sale of cedar wood
  • Reduces the cost of management and can facilitate future management by reinvesting the revenue generated from the sale of cedar wood
  • Reduces the environmental impact of management by avoiding the harmful air emissions released during pile burning
  • Provides economic opportunities for rural businesses and communities