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State DEC gets $3M to battle southern pine beetle on LI

The southern pine beetle, an invasive insect that

The southern pine beetle, an invasive insect that infests and kills pine trees, has been found throughout forested areas of Suffolk County. Credit: USDA Forest Service, Region 8 /

The state Department of Environmental Conservation is getting $3 million to fight the spread of southern pine beetles on Long Island.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced the planned appropriation Monday, saying money from the Environmental Protection Fund would pay for more crews to remove infested trees and to thin out areas overcrowded with pine.

It also would be used for prescribed burns in the pine barrens to keep the fire-dependent ecosystem healthy.

In the past, the DEC has conducted controlled burns in prairie areas locally. As part of its broader management plan to battle the beetles, the agency plans to coordinate prescribed burns in forested areas that have been thinned because of infestations, spokesman Sean Mahar said.

Cuomo, in a news release, said, “We must do everything we can to protect our forests and communities from environmental devastation.”

The invasive species, considered one of the most destructive forest pests in the country, first was discovered in New York in 2014, showing up on Long Island at the William Floyd estate in Mastic Beach, Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge in Shirley, Connetquot River State Park Preserve in Oakdale and elsewhere in Suffolk County. The beetle was found in Bethpage State Park in Nassau County in 2015.

The bark beetles, which are about the size of a grain of rice and use pheromones to attack trees en masse, also have been found in Orange, Rockland, Sullivan and Ulster counties.

The DEC has cut down nearly 13,000 trees statewide to try to slow the beetles’ spread. All pine trees are susceptible, including pitch pine, white pine and red pine; hemlocks and spruce may be affected in highly infested areas.

The agency also announced it would release a second round of southern pine beetle recovery grants this summer to help municipalities plant trees in affected areas, remove infested trees and thin overcrowded areas.

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