Examining a tree with beetle damage. | Daniel Brennan photo for the Long Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex
Examining a tree with beetle damage. | Daniel Brennan photo for the Long Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex

A dozen state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) forestry experts from all across New York and a group of educators from the Northeastern Forest Fire Protection Commission (NFFPC) arrived in Long Island this week, with plans to combat the devestating impact the southern pine beetle is having on trees throughout central and eastern Long Island.

“The southern pine beetle has destroyed thousands of trees on Long Island and remains a major threat to the Pine Barrens and other forested areas in the region,” DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said in a press release Tuesday. “DEC forestry experts are working closely with state, local and federal experts to manage and mitigate the impacts of this threat, and protect the critical natural resources that are so important to the ecology of Long Island.”

The DEC forestry team is deploying to the Rocky Point Pine Barrens State Forest to inventory tree species and produce a hazard risk map of timber stands that are at greatest risk of infestation. They will then perform surveillance work on other state-owned forest properties.

The NFFPC education team, which includes members from Maine, Massachusetts, Virginia and Nova Scotia, will work on communication strategies and educational materials to raise public awareness about the southern pine beetle and how people can help limit its impact.

The DEC has put together an education page on the Southern Pine Beetle, which is considered one of the most destructive forest pests in the country. The beetle infests all pine species, including pitch pine, which is the predominant species found in the Long Island Pine Barrens, which makes up 55,000 acres in the core pine barrens area and 100,000 more acres of surrounding similar ecosystems.

According to the DEC, the most effective method to minimize the spread of the beetles includes cutting infested trees and thinning surrounding forested areas. If left untreated, the southern pine beetle can move swiftly to nearby forested areas. Insecticides have been shown to be mostly ineffective, and also poses risks to the environment in an area above Long Island’s sole source drinking water aquifer.

In February, DEC workers cut more than 2,450 trees out of 20 acres of infested woods near Munn’s Pond County Park and Henry’s Hollow Pine Barrens State Forest in Hampton Bays in an attempt to control the beetle’s spread.

Beth Young
Beth Young is an award-winning local journalist who has been covering the East End since the 1990s. She began her career at the Sag Harbor Express and, after receiving her Masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has reported for the Southampton Press, the East Hampton Press and the Times/Review Media Group. She founded the East End Beacon website in 2013, and a print edition in 2017. Beth was born and raised on the North Fork. In her spare time, she tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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