By Madeline Wells
Sustainable Tulsa’s 1st Thursday! event’s new home is at TCC’s McKeon Center for Creativity. First Thursday is a monthly meeting that is open to the public and gives individuals the opportunity to hear lectures from notable leaders in sustainability.
The 1st Thursday! events provide networking amongst local businesses, students, and other individuals committed to environmental stewardship.
On Nov 2, Urban Forestry coordinator Mark Bays presented an inside look at Oklahoma’s forest industry. Bays discussed the various benefits of having forests in Oklahoma as well as how the forest industry impacts the economy.
Benefits include improving quality of life, reduced crime, improved learning and job performances, improved air and water quality amongst other things.
Having a large tree canopy helps fight against the urban heat island effect, and cities with more trees tend to have reduced energy bills.
Besides the benefits of growing trees, Bays shared information on the various species in the different regions of Oklahoma. Oklahoma is home to 13 ecoregions and offers some of the nation’s most diverse terrain. Ecoregions include tall grass prairies, hardwood forests, desserts and pine -covered mountains. Oklahoma is also third in the nation for the largest amount of diverse plant communities.
There is a reason why we’re called “Oak”-lahoma and that’s because Oklahoma is home to 26 varieties of oak trees. The majority of Oklahoma’s forests is composed of oak-hickory, with the southern oak pines coming in second.
In southeastern Oklahoma, one can stroll in the shade of bald cypress and willow oaks. While in the northeast, one will find pin oaks and cove-type hardwoods.
A new forest has emerged across Oklahoma in the last 70 years due to the containment of wildfires. Red cedar trees have scattered across Oklahoma, and are now native in every county except for the pan handle.
While many ranchers could call the Redcedars an “invasion,” the wood has multiple commercial uses that benefit the economy. Another popular tree, the Cottonwood, can be found in all 77 counties in Oklahoma.
The most famous and historical Cottonwood tree in Oklahoma is nicknamed the “Marrying tree” due to the numerous weddings that have occurred under its limbs.
In the past, a marriage license issued in an Oklahoma county was only recognized in that county. Because the Marrying tree rests on the border of two counties, couples would get married on both sides of the tree in one ceremony.The convenience of the Cottonwood’s location made for an ideal romantic hitching spot.
Trees are special to Tulsa and to Oklahoma and are tied to multiple historic events. The now modern city of Tulsa was founded underneath an oak tree by the Lochapoka Clan of the Creek Nation.
The Creek Nation hosts an annual celebration under the historical oak to commemorate the Clan’s arrival in 1836. The Creek Council Oak Tree and is located between 17th and 18th and South Cheyenne.
Another notable tree is Tulsa’s Hanging Tree or the Creek Hanging Tree. The towering Bar oak tree located at 3 N. Lawton St. is said to be over 200 years old.
The oak was reportedly the hanging and burial site for cattle rustlers before Tulsa was officially a city. Violators of the Creek Indian law were allegedly hanged there as well.
While there is no sound proof that the tree was used for hanging, in the 1920s, city workers discovered skeletons under the tree while replacing a sewer line.
More than 12 million acres (approximately 28 percent) of Oklahoma’s land is made up of forests that generate over $2.95 billion to the economy annually.
While the Creek Council oak tree and the Creek hanging tree belong to the City of Tulsa, the majority of the land is not owned by the federal government.
Over 90 percent of the forests are owned by multiple private individuals that provide care and management for the good of the forest.
At the end of his lecture, Bays raffled off a “small forest” of five Red bud trees and 10 loblolly pine trees.
Bays graduated from Oklahoma State University in 1982 and has been with the Oklahoma Forestry Services for the last 26 years.
Oklahoma Forestry Services falls under the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry. OFS is dedicated to conserve, enhance and protect Oklahoma’s forests for future generations to enjoy.
Future 1st Thursday events will be held at the Center for Creativity on the first Thursday of every month.
Lunch starts at 11:30 a.m. with a guest speaker and networking from noon to 1 p.m.
To find out more information, visit http://sustainabletulsainc.org/ or http://www.forestry.ok.gov.