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For Release: Monday, March 29, 2021

DEC Announces First Prescribed Fire of Demonstration Forest at Rocky Point Pine Barrens State Forest

Demonstration Forest Supports Fire and Forest Management Public Education and Research

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), in partnership with the Central Pine Barrens Joint Planning and Policy Commission, (leaves DEC's website) announced today that it will be conducting the first prescribed burn on the Demonstration Forest at DEC's Rocky Point Pine Barrens State Forest in Suffolk County. DEC Forest Rangers, staff, and volunteers, along with the Pine Barrens Commission, will complete a prescribed burn on three, three-acre blocks of the forest. The prescribed fire is weather dependent but anticipated in April.

This burn marks the first time the Demonstration Forest will be treated with prescribed fire. The Demonstration Forest is an ecological research operation funded through a 2017 U.S. Forest Service (USFS) grant. It was developed by DEC and USFS foresters to provide public education on the benefit of fire and forest management in the fight against the invasive insect the Southern Pine Beetle.

The project consists of a 27-acre area. Nine acres serve as a control, where no treatment is administered. The remaining 18 acres have been thinned according to silvicultural guidelines. Silviculture is the art and science of growing and manipulating trees and forests. Each of the three blocks of three-acre sections will receive different treatments to determine the treatment's level of effectiveness. The three treatment options are: control; thinning; and thinning and burning. Previous research has shown that a thinned forest is healthier and more resilient against Southern Pine Beetle attacks and infestation.

About Prescribed Burns

DEC conducts prescribed burns on Long Island year-round. Woodland units, through the combination of mechanical treatments and prescribed fire, can occur during any month between February and November when weather conditions permit. The plan calls for cooperation among federal, state, and local agencies, as well as not-for-profit organizations. Prescribed burns are conducted in conjunction with personnel from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, Suffolk County Department of Parks, Recreation and Conservation, and local fire departments.

Prescribed fire is necessary to promote and maintain the Long Island Pine Barrens ecosystem. Prescribed fire also improves wildlife habitat by maintaining a diverse forest environment. Other benefits include a reduction in highly combustible fuel loads that could potentially feed a wildland fire, as well as establishing and maintaining fire breaks that make control and access to wildland fires easier to obtain. Prescribed fires also represent a valuable training opportunity for local firefighters who develop skills needed to fight wildland fires.

Before any prescribed fire is conducted, a burn plan is developed. Burn plans outline management's objectives, as well as parameters that must be satisfied before any prescribed fire can take place. Careful consideration is given to environmental factors such as current and expected weather conditions and smoke management considerations in close coordination with the National Weather Service. Individuals interested in viewing copies of DEC's Region One fire management plans and individual burn unit plans or looking for general prescribed fire information should contact DEC's Region One Forest Rangers at (631) 444-0291 or Division of Lands and Forests at (631) 444-0285.

DEC notifies local law enforcement and local fire-fighting agencies before conducting any prescribed fires. However, the public is encouraged to report smoke columns to local authorities. More information on wildfire prevention may be found on the FIREWISE New York webpage.

Southern Pine Beetle

The invasive pest Southern Pine Beetle, a bark beetle native to the southern United States, has steadily expanded its range north and west, possibly due to climate change. It 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. Prior to its discovery on Long Island, Southern Pine Beetle had reached as far north as New Jersey, devastating nearly 50,000 acres of Pine Barrens in that state. An estimated 1,000 new acres of pine forests in New Jersey have been destroyed each year by the beetle since it was found in that state in 2001.

Adult beetles bore into the bark of trees laying eggs in S-shaped tunnels just beneath the bark. This disrupts the flow of nutrients, killing the tree in typically two to four months. Insecticides have been shown to be mostly ineffective against Southern Pine Beetle and are a threat to the sole source drinking water aquifer. See DEC's Southern Pine Beetle fact sheet for photos and information related to the recent areas of discovery.

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