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For Release: Thursday, April 16, 2015

DEC Welcomes Out-of-State Crews for Southern Pine Beetle Work

Crews arrive from New Hampshire, Maine and Nova Scotia

Three two-person teams of forest health specialists from New Hampshire, Maine and Nova Scotia arrived on Monday to assist New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Forest Health staff survey and map newly discovered southern pine beetle (SPB) infestations on State and County lands across central and eastern Long Island.

An additional contingent of out-of-state forest health specialists are expected to arrive next week to continue survey and delimitation efforts.

Assistance is being provided through the Northeast Forest Fire Compact, with specific Forest Health emergency response funding provided by the U.S. Forest Service.

"DEC greatly appreciates the support it is receiving from Northeast Forest Fire Compact and the U.S. Forest Service," DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said. "The faster we work to determine the full extent of the problem the quicker we will be able to enact aggressive strategies and tactics that will have a greater chance to minimizing this pest's impact on pine lands throughout the Long Island region."

The influx of out-of-state assistance is the result of cooperative logistical and financial arrangements New York State has as a member of the Northeast Forest Fire Compact. In recent years, DEC has sent Forest Health specialists to Massachusetts (MA) and Maryland (MD) to assist with forest health response efforts as well. Travel, meal and lodging costs, for incoming crews are being paid by the Fire Compact, with approximately $57,000 in federal funds.

DEC, in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, the Central Pine Barrens Commission and Long Island municipalities began taking steps in January to further define the extent of the southern pine beetle infestation, with several agencies also beginning tree-cutting operations in an attempt to reduced additional damage.

Southern pine beetle was confirmed for the first time in New York State in October 2014. In early February 2015, DEC personnel began cutting infested trees on the DEC-managed Henry's Hollow Pine Barrens State Forest and on adjoining Suffolk County Department of Parks, Recreation and Conservation parkland at Munn's Ponds County Park. Cutting operations concluded on Wednesday, April 15 with 2,451 tree having been cut on this state and county combined 20-acre impacted parcel.

Control actions at Henry's Hollow were undertaken following the completion of aerial and ground surveys to help confirm which areas have been infested by SPB. Research in New Jersey and other affected states has shown that SPB in the northeast will most likely overwinter in the pupal stage, making this past winter season an ideal window of opportunity to combat the infestation.

SPB is considered one of the most destructive forest pests in the United States and attacks all species of pine including pitch pine, the predominant species found in the Long Island Pine Barrens. Previous to its discovery last year on Long Island, it had reached as far north as New Jersey and has devastated almost 50,000 acres of pine barrens in their state. Town, county, state and federal agencies are working together to protect Long Island's 55,000 acres of core pine barrens and the 100,000 acres of surrounding compatible growth of pine barrens which protect our sole source drinking water aquifer.

The accepted and most effective method of minimizing the spread of SPB includes cutting infested trees and thinning surrounding forested areas. Thinned forests enable individual trees to better defend themselves against beetle attacks. If untreated, SPB can move swiftly to nearby forested areas. Insecticides have been shown to be mostly ineffective against SPB, too costly to the environment and too great a threat to the sole source drinking water aquifer.

Southern Pine Beetle Background:

The SPB, a bark beetle native to the southern United States, has steadily expanded its range north and westward, possibly due to climate change. An estimated 1,000 new acres of pine forests in New Jersey have been destroyed each year by SPB since it was found in that state in 2001. Minimizing the damage to the over 100,000 acres of pine habitat on Long Island is paramount in determining the management activities employed to combat the beetle.

Adults bore into the bark until they reach the cambium layer. There the female creates S-shaped tunnels through the living tissue along which she lays her eggs. After the eggs hatch, the larvae will feed out from these tunnels eventually reaching the outer bark where they pupate and emerge as adults through small, round holes that often create a shotgun pattern on the bark. Most trees die quickly, often succumbing within two to four months, due to girdling from tunnel construction.

What You Can Do:

DEC urges the public to report any recently dead pine they encounter in the Long Island area, especially if there are several trees grouped together. Sightings should be reported to the Forest Health Diagnostic Lab through the toll-free information line, 1-866-640-0652 or by email. If possible, accompany any reports via email with photos of the trees including close ups of any damage. An added item in the photo for scale, such as a penny, would help with identification.

A SPB fact sheet with photos and information related to the recent areas of discovery are available on DEC's website.

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