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East Hampton Town cuts down 5,000 trees to fight pine beetle

Trees infested by the southern pine beetle were

Trees infested by the southern pine beetle were recently cut down by town officials on Susan Metzger's property on Swamp Road in East Hampton. Credit: Susan Metzger

With the infestation of the southern pine beetle in East Hampton Town growing nearly tenfold, town officials said Tuesday they have cut down more than 5,000 trees and are confident they are getting ahead of the problem.

Andrew Drake, a town environmental analyst, said the pine beetle has spread to 7,720 trees, a substantial increase from the 800 infested trees that were discovered in early October.

But he noted officials have only about 2,500 trees left to cut down and expose to the cold as part of the state-approved method for killing the beetles and preventing further spread. Drake said he expects four subcontracting crews to finish the job within three weeks.

“We really feel at this point we’re getting it contained and we’re getting ahead of it,” he said.

The quick spread prompted Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell to declare a state of emergency in late October.

Officials have already spent $160,000 to inspect public and private properties, and cut down infested trees with property owners’ permission. The town board approved doubling that amount in a vote Tuesday.

Officials ask residents with concerns about the pine beetle to call 631-324-7420.

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