Wildfire in Kansas, Oklahoma called ‘ecological cleansing’

A firefighter crew douses a line of grass fire about 15 miles southwest of Medicine Lodge, Kansas Thursday, March 24, 2016. More than 200 firefighters are battling an active fire line stretching 30 to 40 miles long in Barber County on Thursday. (Mike Hutmacher/The Wichita Eagle via AP)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The biggest wildfire in Kansas history has a silver lining despite scorching nearly 600 square miles of land in Kansas and Oklahoma.

Conservation experts say it would have taken decades to clear out the number of eastern red cedars consumed by the Anderson Creek fire in March.

Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks agent Ken Brunson called the blaze an “ecological cleansing for the environment” because it killed so many cedars, also known as junipers.

Red cedars are drought-resistant trees that crowd out native grasses, suck up moisture from the soil and reduce the amount of forage for wildlife and livestock.

Aron Flanders with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates it would have cost Kansas landowners $56 million to remove the same number of trees killed in the fire.

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