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For Release: Monday, July 26, 2021

DEC and Team Rubicon Announce First-Ever Joint Sawyer Training Exercise

Exercise at Rocky Point Pine Barrens State Forest Marks Expansion of DEC's Southern Pine Beetle Control Efforts

Click Here for Video from July 25 Training (leaves DEC website).

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos announced today that DEC held its first-ever sawyer training exercise this past weekend at DEC's Rocky Point Pine Barrens State Forest with a Long Island-based delegation of Team Rubicon volunteers. The two-day training exercise was designed specifically to help Team Rubicon, an international non-profit disaster response organization that unites the skills and experiences of military veterans, committed civilians, and first responders to rapidly deploy emergency response teams.

"Team Rubicon volunteers-veterans of our armed forces-embody the values of courage and selfless service, much like DEC's first responders," said Commissioner Seggos. "This training partnership helps us manage damaging invasive species in our state forests, bolsters New York's severe-weather preparedness, and provides Team Rubicon members valuable operational and chainsaw training that they will put to use when storms impact lives and property."

"We thank the DEC for this partnership and for the opportunity to provide additional training and expertise to our volunteers. This experience will allow us to respond quickly when communities need us," said Maureen Rutkowski, Team Rubicon New York State Lead.

Rocky Point Forest Management Projects
In addition to providing a training opportunity for these emergency responders, the exercise supports forest management efforts underway at Rocky Point State Forest. The area chosen for the training session is part of an approximate 1,500-acre parcel on the nearly 6,000-acre Rocky Point Pine Barrens State Forest. Following the discovery of southern pine beetle (SPB) on Long Island in 2014, DEC took aggressive steps to contain its spread. Initial work focused on cutting more than 2,400 trees on a 20-acre parcel on the DEC-managed Henrys Hollow Pine Barrens State Forest.

Because Rocky Point Pine Barrens State Forest is one of the largest publicly owned properties in the Central Pine Barrens region, DEC brought in a team of DEC foresters to complete an inventory of tree species on this property in 2015. The inventory produced a hazard risk map of timber stands at the greatest risk of SPB infestation. From this inventory, DEC completed a tree stand density analysis to determine the optimal number of trees per acre that would allow a forest to fend off any future southern pine beetle attacks. Approximately two years ago, DEC staff oversaw a timber stand marking project on an approximate 1,500-acre parcel of this forest. Marked trees were chosen to protect healthier trees from being impacted by SPB. These marked trees designated for thinning will be taken as part of this training exercise with Team Rubicon.

Team Rubicon
Team Rubicon is an international non-profit disaster response organization that unites the skills and experiences of military veterans with first responders to rapidly deploy emergency response teams to communities affected by disasters. Team Rubicon currently maintains a roster of more than 140,000 plus volunteers able to deploy throughout the United States and world. In New York State, Team Rubicon has nearly 6,500 volunteers. To learn more please visit Team Rubicon's website (leaves DEC website).

Team Rubicon was formed after a 7.0 earthquake shattered Por-au-Prince, Haiti, in January 2010. In the days following the earthquake, many traditional aid organizations were slow to establish relief efforts, citing dangerous and unstable working conditions. Troubled by the scenes in Port-au-Prince and the lack of proper aid, two Marines, Jake Wood and William McNulty, decided to act. Gathering supplies and volunteers, the small group of veterans, first responders, and medical professionals deployed to Haiti. The small group focused on populations often overlooked or underserved by traditional aid organizations. By applying medical and leadership skills honed by years of service in the military, Team Rubicon provided aid to thousands of survivors of the earthquake. From this initial operation, a larger organization grew, one committed to helping underserved communities impacted by disasters.

About the Southern Pine Beetle
SPB is considered one of the most destructive forest pests in the U.S. 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 in 2014, it had reached as far north as New Jersey and devastated almost 50,000 acres of pine barrens there. Municipal, 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 the island's sole source drinking water aquifer.

The 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. 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. More information about SPB is available on DEC's website.

Photos and video below are Courtesy of NYSDEC.
High Resolution Photos (zip).
B-Roll footage: (Leaves DEC website)

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