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Fire Island National Seashore areas closing for 2 weeks for tree-cutting work

Parts of the Fire Island National Seashore will be closed for two weeks starting Monday so officials can begin cutting down trees affected by the southern pine beetle.

A group from the National Park Service's Arborist Incident Response Team will begin cutting down the more than 600 trees that have been infested with the beetle, a pest native to the southern United States and first confirmed on Long Island last year.

The work will take place in areas of the Sunken Forest on Fire Island and the William Floyd Estate in Mastic Beach. The areas will be closed during the operation to protect public safety, park service officials said.

The felled trees will be cut into small pieces, allowing the beetle to be exposed to the elements and die, helping to slow the spread of the infestation, according to the park service.

The U.S. Forest Service has provided a $97,500 grant to cover the cost of the tree-cutting team.

The beetle has been found on federal, state, local and private lands across Suffolk County. It mainly attacks pitch pines, which make up most of Long Island's protected pine barrens. The beetle overwhelms trees through sheer numbers before flying to the next tree.

Experts say cutting down affected trees and, in warmer months, having a buffer of healthy trees, is the best way to halt the spread of the beetle.

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