05/29/15 5:00am
05/29/2015 5:00 AM

To the editor:

The New York State Department of Conservation can start killing and mutilating (amputating) wings of healthy wild mute swans if the mute swan bill passed by the state Senate does not get voted on before the Assembly recesses. The DEC’s plan states the swans are non-native and invasive. (more…)

05/08/15 10:00am
05/08/2015 10:00 AM
Two deer grazing behind a Cutchogue. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder, file)

Two deer grazing behind a Cutchogue home. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder, file)

A decades-old law in Southold Town could soon be eliminated to ease the process for residents to obtain deer hunting permits following a recommendation from the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

The proposed legislation before the Southold Town Board would eliminate a 1960s law that requires hunters to receive a special permit from the town clerk’s office in addition to a state-issued hunting permit.

(more…)

05/04/15 8:00am
05/04/2015 8:00 AM
Southern pine beetles have been confirmed in the above locations so far, officials say. (Eric Hod illustration)

Southern pine beetles have been confirmed in the above locations so far, officials say. (Eric Hod illustration)

The southern pine beetle, as it turns out, isn’t all that southern anymore.

The voracious and highly destructive insect — which decimates millions of cubic feet of timber across the country each year — has been making a slow expansion north over the past couple of decades. The beetle arrived in New Jersey in 2001, crossed the Great Egg Harbor River south of Atlantic City in 2008 and arrived on Long Island this past fall.

Now, authorities are trying to figure out how to contain the spread of the pest in the Pine Barrens and beyond. So far, it has infected trees at least a dozen state and county parks across Suffolk County (see map, above), not to mention on private land.

“We assume that all in all, we’ve lost a good thousand acres,” said John Wernet, regional forester with the Department of Environmental Conservation. The DEC, in conjunction with other agencies, is conducting aerial and ground surveys to determine the full extent of the damage. Results are expected in the next couple of months.


THE THREE STAGES OF A SOUTHERN PINE BEETLE INFESTATION


The levels of infestation are bound to affect the health of the Pine Barrens for years to come.

“It’s not possible to eliminate,” said Kevin Dodds, an entomologist with the U.S. Forest Service. “I hear a lot of people use the word ‘control,’ but ‘control’ implies you have the ability to knock things back. It’s better to look at this as managing it.”

CLIMBING NORTH

A few years ago, Rob Corcory, who had retired from a 37-year career with the New Jersey State Forestry Services Department, was asked to return as the state’s southern pine beetle project manager.

By then, however, scientists estimated that it was just too late to stymie the insect’s northward march.

“We tried to keep it in the southern half of the state, but it started creeping north. Everything was below the Mullica River [in New Jersey] until a year or two,” Mr. Corcory said.

R0430_beetle_C.jpgScientists have attributed the beetle’s northern migration to climate change. The coldest night of winter in New Jersey is now seven to eight degrees warmer, on average, than it was 50 years ago, said Matthew Ayres, professor of biological sciences at Dartmouth College. And warmer temperatures at night have allowed the beetle to survive the farther north it goes.

On Long Island, temperatures recorded this past winter at the National Weather Service in Upton dropped to -4 degrees on three nights in February, which helped suppress the beetle’s spread this spring and “bought us some time” to fight this year’s infestation, said Mr. Wernet of the DEC.

It remains unclear exactly how the beetle arrived on Long Island, but its presence has now been confirmed as far north as Hartford, Conn.

It’s been speculated the beetles washed ashore on Long Island during Superstorm Sandy, Mr. Dodds said. Or it “could have just spread in smaller infestations,” he said.

What is clear is that they’re here.

Caption: Researchers from Dartmouth College and the New Jersey Forest Service discuss southern pine beetle management in the New Jersey Pinelands. (Courtesy: Matt Ayres/Dartmouth College)

05/04/15 7:59am

Trees attacked by southern pine beetles go through three stages before the beetles move on:

R0430_beetle_side1_C.jpgFresh attacks: Females initiate the attack on the tree, releasing pheremones once a suitable host is found. Pine trees release extra resin as a defense mechanism against the beetles, though male and female beetles work together to clear away the resin and enter the bark — usually through the crevices. After southern pine beetles bore into the trees, reddish-white dust can be found on and around the tree.

R0430_beetle_side2_C.jpg

Faders: S-shaped galleries are formed inside the tree, where more beetles later hatch and create new tubes. The beetle also transmits a fungus that stops water from circulating within the tree. Foliage starts to fade in color.

R0430_beetle_side3_C.jpgVacated: Beetles born inside the tree create exit holes, allowing a mass emergence from the tree. The browning of foliage continues and bark becomes loose and peels away easily. Abundant white sawdust from the entrance and exit holes often accumulates at the base of vacated trees.

Source: Department of Environmental Conservation

05/01/15 8:00am
05/01/2015 8:00 AM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO  |  Southold trustee and bayman Jim King harvests oysters and clams in Mattituck Inlet last year.

Southold trustee and bayman Jim King harvests oysters and clams in Mattituck Inlet last year. (Barbaraellen Koch file photo)

The East End’s baymen — at least what’s left of them — are getting a hand from local governments, which are trying to open up shellfish beds that were designated as polluted by the state but could actually be quite clean.

Due to a state regulatory agency that’s strapped for time and money, a new agreement from the Suffolk County Legislature and the Peconic Estuary Protection Committee will set up standard practices for the county and East End towns to test their own water under the state’s strict guidelines. (more…)

03/11/15 12:00pm
03/11/2015 12:00 PM
A mute swan mother with her cygnets in East Marion last year. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder, file)

A mute swan mother with her cygnets in East Marion last year. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder, file)

A newly revised state Department of Environmental Conservation plan to deal with mute swan populations in the state would focus on non-lethal management of their numbers on Long Island, only calling for lethal methods as a “last resort.”

That’s still too often for some, including state Senator Ken LaValle.  (more…)