- Associated Press - Monday, October 12, 2015

ROCKY POINT, N.Y. (AP) - The state is considering a first-ever tree sale in a Long Island forest to battle the destructive southern pine beetle.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation recently started marking trees for potential sale in the Rocky Point Pine Barrens State Forest, though it’s not yet clear whether there will be any takers in an area with little timber industry, Newsday (https://nwsdy.li/1jrzWLU) reported in Monday’s editions.

Still, officials think the idea is worth trying as a way to cut the cost of cutting down trees to thwart the spread of the beetle, a chocolate-sprinkle-sized creature that has attacked forests in the Southeast for generations and has been making its way into the Northeast, destroying thousands of trees in New York, New Jersey and elsewhere. It was first discovered in New York a year ago.

Forest managers say cutting trees can slow the beetle’s spread. The beetles “love overstocked forests - and all of Long Island’s forests are overstocked,” said DEC research scientist Jessica Cancelliere. Officials already have cut down thousands of trees on federal, state and county lands on Long Island.

But thinning trees is pricey: DEC regional forester John Wernet has gotten estimates as high as $2,000 an acre for a potentially 200-acre project in the largely pitch pine Rocky Point forest.

In a sale, logging companies would pay to cut the trees. It’s unclear what the price would be.

The DEC has sold timber in upstate forests, but this would be the first such sale on Long Island in the agency’s 45-year history.

The cost of transporting the trees to mills will be a key question, said John Bartow, the executive director of the Empire State Forest Products Association, a group representing paper mills, sawmills, loggers and haulers. Only two of its roughly 860 members are based on Long Island, he said.

Wernet acknowledges it’s unclear whether the state will get any bidders. “But we’re going to try,” he said.

State Assemblyman Steven Englebright, a Setauket Democrat who chairs the Environmental Conservation Committee, worries that loggers might take more trees than the state wants.

“You have to be concerned that it might get out of control,” he said.

Wernet said the DEC would inspect and monitor the cutting to make sure only marked trees are taken.

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Information from: Newsday, https://www.newsday.com


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