05/04/15 8:00am
05/04/2015 8:00 AM
Southern pine beetles have been confirmed in the above locations so far, officials say. (Eric Hod illustration)

Southern pine beetles have been confirmed in the above locations so far, officials say. (Eric Hod illustration)

The southern pine beetle, as it turns out, isn’t all that southern anymore.

The voracious and highly destructive insect — which decimates millions of cubic feet of timber across the country each year — has been making a slow expansion north over the past couple of decades. The beetle arrived in New Jersey in 2001, crossed the Great Egg Harbor River south of Atlantic City in 2008 and arrived on Long Island this past fall.

Now, authorities are trying to figure out how to contain the spread of the pest in the Pine Barrens and beyond. So far, it has infected trees at least a dozen state and county parks across Suffolk County (see map, above), not to mention on private land.

“We assume that all in all, we’ve lost a good thousand acres,” said John Wernet, regional forester with the Department of Environmental Conservation. The DEC, in conjunction with other agencies, is conducting aerial and ground surveys to determine the full extent of the damage. Results are expected in the next couple of months.


The levels of infestation are bound to affect the health of the Pine Barrens for years to come.

“It’s not possible to eliminate,” said Kevin Dodds, an entomologist with the U.S. Forest Service. “I hear a lot of people use the word ‘control,’ but ‘control’ implies you have the ability to knock things back. It’s better to look at this as managing it.”


A few years ago, Rob Corcory, who had retired from a 37-year career with the New Jersey State Forestry Services Department, was asked to return as the state’s southern pine beetle project manager.

By then, however, scientists estimated that it was just too late to stymie the insect’s northward march.

“We tried to keep it in the southern half of the state, but it started creeping north. Everything was below the Mullica River [in New Jersey] until a year or two,” Mr. Corcory said.

R0430_beetle_C.jpgScientists have attributed the beetle’s northern migration to climate change. The coldest night of winter in New Jersey is now seven to eight degrees warmer, on average, than it was 50 years ago, said Matthew Ayres, professor of biological sciences at Dartmouth College. And warmer temperatures at night have allowed the beetle to survive the farther north it goes.

On Long Island, temperatures recorded this past winter at the National Weather Service in Upton dropped to -4 degrees on three nights in February, which helped suppress the beetle’s spread this spring and “bought us some time” to fight this year’s infestation, said Mr. Wernet of the DEC.

It remains unclear exactly how the beetle arrived on Long Island, but its presence has now been confirmed as far north as Hartford, Conn.

It’s been speculated the beetles washed ashore on Long Island during Superstorm Sandy, Mr. Dodds said. Or it “could have just spread in smaller infestations,” he said.

What is clear is that they’re here.

Caption: Researchers from Dartmouth College and the New Jersey Forest Service discuss southern pine beetle management in the New Jersey Pinelands. (Courtesy: Matt Ayres/Dartmouth College)

05/04/15 7:59am

Trees attacked by southern pine beetles go through three stages before the beetles move on:

R0430_beetle_side1_C.jpgFresh attacks: Females initiate the attack on the tree, releasing pheremones once a suitable host is found. Pine trees release extra resin as a defense mechanism against the beetles, though male and female beetles work together to clear away the resin and enter the bark — usually through the crevices. After southern pine beetles bore into the trees, reddish-white dust can be found on and around the tree.


Faders: S-shaped galleries are formed inside the tree, where more beetles later hatch and create new tubes. The beetle also transmits a fungus that stops water from circulating within the tree. Foliage starts to fade in color.


R0430_beetle_side3_C.jpgVacated: Beetles born inside the tree create exit holes, allowing a mass emergence from the tree. The browning of foliage continues and bark becomes loose and peels away easily. Abundant white sawdust from the entrance and exit holes often accumulates at the base of vacated trees.

Source: Department of Environmental Conservation

03/29/15 2:00pm
03/29/2015 2:00 PM
COURTESY DRAWING  |  A rendering from 2013 of what the new Kent Animal Shelter will look like.

COURTESY DRAWING | A rendering from 2013 of what the new Kent Animal Shelter will look like.

Like the pets we’ve helped all these years, we now find ourselves facing an uncertain future. No one wants to live in a cold house constructed of cement that’s falling apart, not even animals.

Over 55,000 animals have been spayed or neutered and over 40,000 have been rescued and placed in new homes since Kent Animal Shelter in Calverton was built in 1968. How ironic, is it then, that the organization that made that happen may soon face its own untimely demise?

It’s the very thing that we have fought against for our homeless animals for the past 47 years. (more…)

03/20/15 10:00am
03/20/2015 10:00 AM
Kent Animal Shelter executive director Pam Green addresses the Pine Barrens Commission during a public hearing Wednesday. (Credit: Paul Squire)

Kent Animal Shelter executive director Pam Green addresses the Pine Barrens Commission during a public hearing Wednesday. (Credit: Paul Squire)

The facilities at Kent Animal Shelter aren’t enough to meet their needs, representatives of the nonprofit said at a public hearing before the Pine Barrens Commission last week.

Plans for a new facility, they said, would not only expand their operations but also help the environment by removing outdated and “archaic” septic systems.

But whether that’s enough for the commission to allow the group to build remains to be seen. (more…)

01/31/15 8:00am
01/31/2015 8:00 AM
Kent Animal Shelter kennel manager Ricky Appling gets some kisses Friday from Yogi, a year-old pit bull mix, in the Calverton shelter's play yard. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Kent Animal Shelter kennel manager Ricky Appling gets some kisses Friday from Yogi, a year-old pit bull mix, in the Calverton shelter’s play yard. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Kent Animal Shelter’s plans for a new facility have been redesigned and will go back before the state’s Central Pine Barrens Joint Planning and Policy Commission, from which Kent needs a waiver to allow construction in the core of the Pine Barrens, where new development is strictly limited.  (more…)

12/28/12 2:00pm
12/28/2012 2:00 PM

SUFFOLK COUNTY COMMUNITY COLLEGE PHOTO | The proposed pool and fitness center at Suffolk County Community College’s eastern campus would be similar to this one at the Brentwood campus.

Suffolk County Community College’s proposed “Health and Wellness Center” at the Eastern Campus in Northampton, a project that would include an indoor swimming pool, will need to get an exemption from the state’s Central Pine Barrens Commission before it can move forward.

The Eastern Campus, which was built in 1977, is located within the core of the Central Pine Barrens, an area where the state’s 1993 Pine Barrens Protection Act places strict limits on new development.

But the college argues that the health and wellness center was part of a 1973 college master plan for the Eastern Campus, and that many other components of that plan have been allowed to be built by the Pine Barrens Commission.

The fitness center project, which would be similar to what the college has at its Brentwood campus, would include an eight lane indoor swimming pool, fitness center, meeting space and nursing laboratory, according to George Gatta, an executive vice president at the college.

The fitness center would include a strength training room, aerobic room, gymnasium, classroom space, office space, locker rooms and lobby, according to the county.

The Suffok County Legislature has included $17.75 million for the project in its capital budget.

The college plans to make the fitness center and pool opened for use by the general public when not being used by the college. At Brentwood, the fitness center and pool have more than 1,440 members, who pay a membership fee, and the pool is also used by local high schools and swim clubs that rent it for meets, according to Mary Lou Araneo, the college’s vice president for institutional advancement.

Mr. Gatta argued at a Dec. 21 meeting of the Pine Barrens Commission that the college’s 1973 master plan for the Eastern Campus included six buildings that the Pine Barrens Commission has allowed to be built on the campus since 1995, including the 40,000 square foot Montauk Learning Resource Center, which was formally opened last year.

In order to get an exemption to build in the Pine Barrens Core, a development must qualify as “non-development” under the guidelines of the 1993 law.

One category that the Pine Barrens law does not define as “development” is “public improvements undertaken for the health, safety and welfare of the public.”

The college is arguing that the health and fitness center falls under that category.

In 1995, the college submitted its 1993 master plan for the Eastern Campus, which included the health and wellness center in a “phase two,” and which included the Montaukett building in Phase One, to the Pine Barrens Commission.

The commission, on Jan. 3, 1995, ruled that Phase One of the master plan “constitutes non-development” under the Pine Barrens Act, but it made no mention of phase two or three of the college master plan.

“We never got an explanation why phase two and three were not included,” said Louis Petrizzo, the college’s general counsel.

“The college continued to inform the commission of its plans to implement the remaining elements of the 1973-76 and 1993 master plans, as well as the 2001 master plan update,” Mr. Gatta said. They sent letters to the commission in 2005 and 2006 and have received no response or explanation why the second and third phases of their master plan didn’t receive approval.

He said the college, “receiving no response to either communication, moved forward with the planning and contraction of the Learning Resource Center and continued to plan for the implementation of the Health and Wellness Center.”

The Pine Barrens Commission is made up of the supervisors of Riverhead, Southampton and Brookhaven towns, along with one representative each from Suffolk County and New York State.

“We’ve already passed judgment that this is non-development,” said Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter, alluding to the 1995 Pine Barrens ruling.

John Milazzo, the attorney for the commission, reminded him that the master plan was in three phases, and only the first one received commission approval in 1995.

“So, if the first phase was non-development, couldn’t we just pass a resolution at the next meeting saying this is non-development too?” Mr. Walter asked.

Richard Amper, the executive director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society (which is not part of the pine barrens commission, although Mr. Amper was instrumental in developing the Pine Barrens Act), pointed that there were amendments to the Pine Barrens Act in 2005, and that there may be different criteria now than there was in 1995.

Mr. Milazzo concurred. He also said that the presentation at the Dec. 21 meeting was just for informational purposes, and that there is currently no formal application before the commission for the college’s plans, so they couldn’t approve them yet.

Mr. Amper later criticized commissioner members during a hearing that same day on Kent Animal Shelter’s proposal for a new shelter building at its River Road location, which needs an exception to build in the Pine Barrens core.

During that hearing, Mr. Walter praised Kent, saying they are “our defacto municipal shelter” and handle 50 percent of the dog needs for the town.

Mr. Amper said that “Kent’s providing a great public service is entirely irrelevant to the application.”

He said he’s been complaining lately that the commission members are judging applications based on whether they are a good use or provide a public service, rather then whether they meet the criteria set forth of the Pine Barrens legislation.

“Even if it were a place to honor saints, that doesn’t mean it qualifies for a hardship exemption,” Mr. Amper said.

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