Legislature proposes commission to combat pine beetle scourge

Southern Pine Beetles, which are devastating forests across the Northeast, have arrived on Long Island. (Credit: Courtesy photo)
Southern Pine Beetles, which are devastating forests across the Northeast, have arrived on Long Island. (Credit: Courtesy photo)

The Suffolk County Legislature may create a commission of state and local authorities to deal with the southern pine beetle, a rice-grain-sized insect devastating nearby woodlands, before the problem gets “too out of hand,” according to one legislator.

Legislator Rob Calarco (D-Patchogue) said the Southern Pine Beetle Joint Commission would assemble a team of representatives from several agencies to combat the threat: four towns — including Riverhead and Southampton — the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the County Executive’s Office, parks and environment departments, Cornell Cooperative Extension as well as the Pine Barrens Commission and the county water authority.

Mr. Calarco, who proposed the beetle commission, said teamwork would allow officials to “pool all of our resources, to get us thinking about dealing about it jointly.”

“Every agency doing this on their own is not going to have enough resources at their disposal to deal with the problem in the comprehensive approach and the effective approach that will get to the heart of it,” Mr. Calarco said.

R-MAIN-04-30-15.inddSouthern pine beetles are indigenous to Central America, but their range has slowly moved farther north over the past couple decades and reached Long Island last fall.

Already, infestations of the beetle have been found at Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge in Shirley and areas of Brookhaven Town near the Patchogue River, Mr. Calarco said. The beetles have also been sighted at parks in Wading River, Manorville, Riverside and Flanders.

“It’s clear the problem is out there and now that the weather is warming up the pine beetles are going to become more active,” he said. The committee would not only look into ways to stop the beetles, but also instances where the different municipalities and organizations can work together.

Legislator Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue) lended his support to the beetle committee proposal.

“This is a really bad situation,” he said. “We need to take a look at it and take a look at it quickly.”

The legislature will vote on whether to form the commission at its next meeting.

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