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Don't overdo tree removal to stop beetle

John Wernet, of the DEC, holds a piece

John Wernet, of the DEC, holds a piece of bark that has a southern pine beetle attached in Hampton Bays, Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2014. Credit: Randee Daddona

It is profoundly sad that the battle against the southern pine beetle must include cutting down thousands of healthy trees to try to stop the spread of the nefarious pest.

Now it appears likely that private logging companies will be hired to take down trees in some parts of Long Island. State authorities must make sure only those designated for removal are felled. No one wants a repeat of post-Sandy complaints that a private company hired by Nassau County to remove damaged trees cut down many others indiscriminately to increase its fee, even though the county found the charges unsubstantiated.

Tree removal is not cheap. And the state Department of Environmental Conservation, which along with other Long Island land managers has cut down thousands of trees already, is starved of money. Thinning a dense 200-acre section of the 5,700-acre Rocky Point Pine Barrens State Forest at high risk of a beetle infestation could cost as much as $400,000. So selling the trees to loggers makes economic sense. The DEC does that upstate but never has undertaken such a sale on Long Island. DEC staff members have been marking trees in Rocky Point for removal, and they must exercise great vigilance to ensure only those trees are taken.

We need to kill trees to save trees. But let's not sacrifice any more than we have to.


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