DEC Awards $275,000 in Grants to Nassau and Suffolk County Communities Impacted By Southern Pine Beetle

Southern Pine Beetle Community Recovery Grants totaling more than $275,000 have been awarded to five projects in Nassau and Suffolk counties that will assist with recovery efforts from southern pine beetle (SPB) damage, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos announced today.

“The cost of managing the negative impacts of the southern pine beetle is a significant hardship faced by Long Island communities,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said. “Thanks to Governor Cuomo’s leadership in providing these grants through New York’s Environmental Protection Fund (EPF), the State is offering critical assistance to alleviate the burden of removing hazard trees and helping to protect the remaining canopy and the ecological and economical services these trees provide.”

These grants are part of New York’s ongoing initiatives to address this invasive pest and provide funding directly to impacted communities. The objectives and goals of the awarded projects coincide with DEC Lands and Forests’ ongoing active management to slow the spread of SPB.

Project activities will focus on addressing safety issues associated with dead trees, cutting infested trees to reduce beetle populations, and replanting native pine barrens species in impacted areas. All of these efforts will help protect and restore the Central Pine Barrens, which is vital to protecting water quality, wildlife habitat, endangered species, and recreational opportunities.

DEC staff reviewed six completed grant applications and selected five recipients based on established rating criteria, including cost-effectiveness, projected benefits, use of recommended standards in implementation, community outreach, education, support, and regional economic impact. A full list of funded projects is below:

Recipient County Project Award
Sisters of St. Joseph, Brentwood, NY Suffolk Southern Pine Beetle Initiative @ The Sisters of St. Joseph $75,000
Nassau County Soil and Water Conservation District Nassau Southern Pine Beetle Suppression and Management in Peter J. Schmitt Massapequa Preserve $60,644
Bayard Cutting Arboretum Horticultural Society, Inc. Suffolk NYS Bayard Cutting Arboretum, Paradise Island $60,820
Town of Southampton Suffolk Removal of Hazard Trees at Good Ground Park and Foster Avenue Park $28,050
Town of Easthampton Suffolk Open Space SPB Management $64,000
Last year, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo targeted $3 million from the Environmental Protection Fund to help manage the spread of SPB on Long Island. The additional funds bolstered DEC’s ongoing efforts to manage the invasive pest, which has killed thousands of pine trees on Long Island since it was first discovered in 2014. The 2018-19 budget proposes an additional $250,000 for prescribed burns to address SPB.

DEC is continuing to inventory the health of the pitch pine stands and designate areas for thinning. Much like weeding a garden, thinning overcrowded and low vigor stands increases the health of the remaining trees, which are then more resilient to SPB attack. SPB management includes removing infested trees, thinning overcrowded pitch pine stands, and using prescribed fire to maintain healthy Pine Barrens.

The Central Pine Barrens are vital in the protection of Long Island’s sole source aquifer, provide habitat for many endangered species, and offer a variety of recreational opportunities.