Additional Funds Will Add Tree-Removal Crews to Limit Spread of Invasive Pest
DEC to Release Second Round of Southern Pine Beetle Community Recovery Grants in Summer 2017 to Support Tree Removal and Replacement
Supported by Record Investment in the Environmental Protection Fund
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced $3 million from the Environmental Protection Fund to manage the spread of Southern Pine Beetle on Long Island. The additional funds will bolster the Department of Environmental Conservation’s current efforts to manage the invasive pest. Southern pine beetles have killed thousands of pine trees on Long Island since it was first discovered in 2014.
"Long Island's precious natural resources are threatened by invasive species such as the southern pine beetle, and we must do everything we can to protect our forests and communities from these environmental devastations," Governor Cuomo said. "This funding will support our ongoing efforts to stop these infestations and help protect the Central Pine Barrens, one of the great treasures of New York."
SPB management includes removing infested trees, thinning overcrowded pitch pine stands, and using prescribed fire to maintain healthy Pine Barrens. The Pine Barrens are vital in the protection of Long Island’s sole source aquifer, provide habitat for many endangered species, and offer a variety of recreational opportunities.
With these resources, DEC will bring on additional crews to remove infested pitch pine trees in order to slow the spread of SPB. Cutting down infested trees reduces the population of SPB and the pest’s ability to communicate from tree to tree. Additionally, DEC will bring on crews to inventory the health of the pitch pine stands and designate areas for thinning. Much like weeding a garden, thinning overcrowded and low vigor stands increases the health of the remaining trees which are then more resilient to SPB attack.
Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said, “DEC is committed to protecting the Long Island Pine Barrens. Thanks to Governor Cuomo’s leadership in increasing New York’s Environmental Protection Fund, DEC will be able to strengthen our work to slow the spread of the Southern Pine Beetle and increase the long-term health and sustainability of the Pine Barrens.”
DEC also plans to use this funding to increase the use of prescribed fire in the Pine Barrens as an important management tool. The Pine Barrens ecosystem is dependent on fire to maintain its composition and health. Pitch pine and other fire-dependent species, such as the coastal barrens buck moth, thrive in the periodically burned barrens and fire assists in the removal of several other invasive species, such as honeysuckle and barberry. As part of its plan to use prescribed fire, DEC will create and rehabilitate fire and fuel breaks which will assist with wildfire protection of local communities.
DEC will also be releasing a second round of SPB Community Recovery Grants in summer 2017. These grants can be used by municipalities to plant trees in areas impacted by SPB, remove infested trees, thin overcrowded pitch pine stands, and/or remove hazard trees killed by SPB. These grants reduce the burden on local governments dealing with costly tree management activities and help protect green spaces into the future.
Senator Kenneth P. LaValle said, “During budget negotiations, we worked towards obtaining $3 million in funding to fight the Southern Pine Beetle. I am pleased that the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation is being pro-active to stop the Southern Pine Beetle from spreading in Suffolk County. It is critically important to halt this beetle before it destroys the trees in the sensitive environmental areas that we have fought so long and hard to preserve. As we move forward, we will continue to assess the situation as we strive to reduce the beetle’s impact on our forests.”
Senator Tom O’Mara, Chair of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee, said, “The uncontrolled spread of invasive species can devastate regional tourism economies and cost local communities hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of jobs. It’s critical that we continue to make these state investments to assist the work of localities, local soil and water conservation districts, and educational institutions like Cornell University. It’s critical, locally based work to protect and secure the quality of waterways and other ecosystems.”
Assemblyman Steve Englebright, Chair of the Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee, said, “The Pine Barrens play a critical role in protecting Long island’s drinking water supply and provide a home to countless plant and animal species. The invasive Southern Pine Beetle has caused immense damage to the pitch pine tree habitat and these grant monies are imperative to ensure that the Pine Barrens remain viable on Long Island. I am encouraged that as a result of the hard work done during the budget, there is a commitment to spend $3 million to enable the DEC, the Pine Barrens Commission, and our towns, villages and county to track, map, and begin to eradicate the SPB. Thanks to Governor Cuomo, these grants will continue to facilitate important work in the Pine Barrens.”
Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. said, “Dedicating $3 million to continue managing the spread of the southern pine beetle is a critical and promising step in the right direction. This invasive insect is responsible for killing thousands of acres of pines throughout the United States, including on Long Island. In 2014, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation officials confirmed a full blown infestation of the pine beetle on more than 1,000 acres of Long Island Pine Barren pitch pines. The Pine Barrens protect the region’s critical source drinking water aquifer, and efforts to combat this beetle are an investment in the health of those dependent on this unique ecosystem.”
Richard Amper, Executive Director, Long Island Pine Barrens Society said, “More funding and experience are coming together to create a more promising plan for managing these insects. That’s good news.”
Central Pine Barrens Joint Planning and Policy Commission Executive Director John Pavacic said, “The Central Pine Barrens Joint Planning and Policy Commission (CPBC) will continue to work alongside DEC in supporting SPB management efforts. This will include assisting in mapping infestations, aiding suppression activities and engaging in ecological restoration. In addition, CPBC will help increase outreach efforts across Long Island, including leading volunteers in pitch pine cone collection events from which pitch pine seeds will be sent to the Long Island Native Plant Initiative and the NYS Saratoga Tree Nursery to be grown for future reforestation efforts.”
DEC’s Fight against Southern Pine Beetle
Since its discovery, DEC has used traps, aerial surveys, and ground surveys to track the southern pine beetle. DEC is working with the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, Parks and Trails NY, Suffolk County Parks and volunteers to replant pine trees in impacted areas in Suffolk County. To date, nearly 900 pine have been planted with additional plantings planned. Additionally, DEC has cut down more than 12,500 infested and buffer trees to lower the populations of the beetle and slow its spread. Tree cutting has occurred mainly on county and state-owned lands in Suffolk County. To learn more about Southern Pine Beetle and DEC’s Management of SPB, visit the DEC website at http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/99331.html.