Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone has announced that Suffolk County, in partnership with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), is working to help combat the invasive Southern Pine Beetle and prevent further damage to the Pine Barrens region here on Long Island. Southern Pine Beetles (SPB) have noticeably invaded areas throughout Suffolk County, with a large area of infected trees located in Southaven County Park.
An estimated 2,000 to 5,000 infested pine trees will be cut on Suffolk County lands to slow the spread of the Southern Pine Beetle. The majority of the infested trees are located within Southaven and Manorville Hills County parks.
There are no current methods to fully eradicate the beetle, however the accepted and most effective method of minimizing the spread of the Southern Pine Beetle includes cutting down infested trees and closely infected trees to create a buffer zone. This buffer zone is essential to halt the spread of the pest, as the beetle typically spreads to pines that lie in close proximity to infected trees. Once the trees have been felled, they will be left in place for the benefit of the forest. The trees will naturally decompose over time and replenish the nutrient cycle within in the ecosystem.
“Every year, tens of thousands of individuals visit our parks for their natural beauty, but the Southern Pine Beetle poses a threat to our most treasured resources,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. “We are working to proactively combat this environmental threat and by removing already infested trees, we will be able slow the spread and ensure a healthier ecosystem.”
DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said, “With our partners in Suffolk County, DEC will continue to proactively work to combat the environmental threat Southern Pine Beetle poses to the region. DEC is deploying strategies to help mitigate the impacts of SPB in Southaven and Manorville County parks andslow the spread of this invasive pest by removing infested trees. In addition, DEC is managing other vulnerable forests using a combination of thinning and prescribed fire to increase forest health and resiliency, which helps prevent other forests from being attacked by SPB.”
Legislator James Mazzarella said: “As the representative for this area, I understand how devastating the impact of removing this number of trees will have on these parks and the residents who frequent them. As unfortunate as these drastic actions may be, the necessity of eradicating this invasive insect will protect the further decimation of these parklands and their surrounding communities.”
Southern Pine Beetles, or SPB, are a bark beetle that infests pitch pine trees. This small beetle is only 2-4mm in length, making it about the size of a grain of rice, and is red-brown to black in color. SPBs tunnel through the pine tree, disrupting the flow of nutrients and can kill an adult pine tree in 2-4 months. These beetles are native to the Southeastern United States but have been expanding up the Eastern Seaboard in recent years.
Favorable climatic conditions for the Southern Pine Beetle have led to a massive increase of infested trees within the Pine Barrens. NYS DEC in conjunction with the Central Pine Barrens Commission are working hard to regain a foothold and combat this major threat to the Pines Barrens.
Funding for this project is being provided by both Suffolk County and the NYS DEC. Tree cutting will begin around November 29, 2022 and the project will continue through 2023. The affected parks will remain open to the public, but there may be temporary closures of active work areas within these parks at any time, please comply with posted signage/warnings when using the parks.