02/28/14 3:01pm

121610i_DeerTick_JC

After months of debate and a failed lawsuit filed by opponents of the plan, a deer cull kicked off this week across multiple private properties on eastern Long Island, as parcels in Southold, Riverhead and Southampton have received state approval for the hunt.

A source familiar with the operation said the sharpshooters started working Riverhead Monday.

(more…)

02/06/14 10:48am
02/06/2014 10:48 AM
LYNETTE DALLAS COURTESY PHOTO | Deer on Deep Hole Drive in Mattituck.

LYNETTE DALLAS COURTESY PHOTO | Deer on Deep Hole Drive in Mattituck.

Predictions of how many deer will be killed through a federal program aimed at culling herds across the East End have fallen sharply as towns and villages back away from participation.

And as it looks now, Southold may end up being the only local government to partake in the program.

(more…)

01/30/14 9:00am
01/30/2014 9:00 AM
JOSEPH PINCIARO FILE PHOTO

JOSEPH PINCIARO FILE PHOTO

Opponents of a deer cull slated to take place in Southold Town are turning up the heat after they say speaking out at public hearings has failed to convince local elected leaders to hit the brakes.

But the town is still moving forward as planned. (more…)

01/16/14 11:05pm
01/16/2014 11:05 PM
JOSEPH PINCIARO PHOTO | Mike Tessitore, of Hunters for Deer, voiced his concern with plans to proceed with a deer culling program in Southold on Thursday night.

JOSEPH PINCIARO PHOTO | Mike Tessitore, of Hunters for Deer, voiced his concern with plans to proceed with a deer culling program in Southold on Thursday night.

With a controversial deer cull expected to begin within weeks in Southold Town, over 125 people showed up in Peconic on Thursday night to hear out members of the entity in charge of running the program, as well as local leaders who say they plan to still move full steam ahead with the program, despite a strong showing from a group of hunters opposed to the idea. (more…)

01/09/14 12:30pm
01/09/2014 12:30 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Southold Town will host a deer forum Jan. 16. 

Southold Town is hosting a public meeting next week to discuss the “Deer Project,” a new proposal by the Long Island Farm Bureau to cull deer herds throughout the East End.

Sponsored by the United States Department of Agriculture, The Deer Project is being funded by the Long Island Farm Bureau and local municipalities. At a recent educational forum, hosted by the Deer Management Committee, about 250 residents mostly agreed that culling the herd was an important step to immediately take.

Related: Deer Coverage

During the Jan. 16 meeting, Martin Lowney, state director of USDA Wildlife Services of New York State, will discuss the scope of the proposed project and anticipated outcomes.

The forum begins at 6 p.m. at Southold Recreation Center, located at 970 Peconic Lane, Peconic.

[email protected]

08/27/13 5:00pm
08/27/2013 5:00 PM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Southold Town will host a deer management forum Sept. 26.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Southold Town will host a deer management forum Sept. 26.

Each year the town board hits the road, making stops in each hamlet to foster community discussion on the issues the public feels are the most important. This year one problem in particular has taken center stage: deer.

Deer management has been a long-standing problem within the town, supervisor Scott Russell said during Tuesday’s work session. In response to the outcry the town will host a forum next month to discuss the past and future of deer management on the North Fork.

The meeting will focus on the latest information and developing a multipronged approach to address overpopulation. Participants will include representatives of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Long Island Farm Bureau and Eastern Long Island Hospital.

In addition to impacting the local economy through their impact on agriculture, deer have also had a major impact on health through the role they play in spreading tick borne illness.

“Ticks present a problem in their own right, but deer are an excellent host,” he said prior to the meeting. “They are able to move the ticks and disease throughout the entire community. That’s health crisis particularly for a community of retirees that are vulnerable to those illnesses. Everyone knows someone who has had a tick borne illness or is current battling one. It’s only going to get worse.”

The forum is scheduled for Thursday, September 26 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Southold Town Recreation Center.

[email protected]

04/12/13 12:05pm
04/12/2013 12:05 PM

TIM KELLY FILE PHOTO | The federal government is making funds available to strengthen barriers separating some North Fork farms and coastal waters. This field of young apple trees in New Suffolk was flooded during superstorm Sandy when part of a nearby dike failed.

Earthen dikes in Cutchogue and Orient damaged by superstorm Sandy left 4.5 miles of North Fork farmland vulnerable to saltwater flooding, but the fields were not eligible for any kind of storm-related government assistance.

For that reason Sen. Charles Schumer and Sen. Kristen Gillibrand petitioned the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a waiver to allow the release of Emergency Watershed Protection program funds, originally only for freshwater projects, to repair the barriers.

On Tuesday the senators announced that five local farms, totaling 700 acres, are now eligible for funding through the EWP program, and that funding will cover 75 percent of repair costs, according to a release. The total cost was estimated at $1.7 million, leaving farm owners responsible for a quarter of that, about $450,000.

That’s certainly good news, said Joe Gergela, executive director of the Long Island Farm Bureau.

“Originally the state said ‘this doesn’t qualify, it can’t be considered,” he said. “That was a crock because it’s been used before in other states, including Rhode Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts.”

New York’s two senators “interceded on our behalf and basically told them to get it done,” he said.

Each affected farm — Salt Air Farm and Wickham Fruit Farm in Cutchogue, and Latham Farm, Fred Terry Farm and Driftwood Farms in Orient — is protected by a dike. A combined 3,500 feet of dikes was damaged during the storm, according to the release.

The farms have all been a part of the North Fork agriculture community for over 200 years.

“The tidal surge was a foot and a half more than ever in our past,” Mr. Gergela added. “The dikes were dirt that had been packed down, and over 70 years the dirt eroded and flattened out. It wasn’t high enough to stop the tidal surge.”

Prudence Wickham Heston and husband Dan Heston run Salt Air Farm on New Suffolk Road in Cutchogue. They are responsible for maintaining the earthen dike the Wickham family built at the northern end of West Creek in New Suffolk in the 1930s. That structure made more land available for cultivation.

She said she’d welcome financial assistance to strengthen the dike she said has kept salt water at bay for 80 years “storm after storm.”

Flood tides during “The Perfect Storm” of 1992 caused the creek to flow over the dike, but during superstorm Sandy, winds knocked over a tree that had grown on the dike and opened a large hole that led to the flooding of 80 acres of farmland.

“That’s a major hit for us,” Ms. Heston said this week. “It’s very frustrating.”

Especially given that she and her husband have been working to improve the quality of that acreage, which had long lain fallow. The couple had hoped to expand their cut-flower crop there this year.

“We’ll see how long it takes to get the land resurrected again,” she said.

The water flowed west across New Suffolk Road into a low-lying field planted with young apple trees. Ms. Heston has little hope that they’ll survive.

“They may leaf out this spring, but if they do I suspect they’ll die in the July heat,” she said.

Fields flooded with salt water cannot be cultivated for up to seven years.

Mr. Gergela said the farm bureau is reaching out to the state Department of Agriculture and Markets to see if any other funds are available to help farmers with the remaining repair costs.

“They still haven’t determined whether they have found enough money, but they were optimistic,” he said.

Without the EWP funding, the farmers would remain vulnerable during future floods.

“We would have tried to patch the breeches, but it would have been virtually impossible because the funds were not there,” Mr. Gergela added. “It is beyond their financial ability to do it.”

[email protected]

10/13/10 5:19pm
10/13/2010 5:19 PM

SUFFOLK TIMES FILE PHOTO Lab 257 on Plum Island, visible at left, was built as a storage facility during World War I and later was used for foot-and-mouth disease studies. It was vacated and mothballed in the mid-1990s.

The clock is ticking on the future of Plum Island, and environmental advocates have banded together to fight to preserve the 840-acre property.
The island, just east of Orient Point, has been the site of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Plum Island Animal Disease Center since 1954, though work there has been overseen by the Department of Homeland Security since 2003. The federal government last year announced plans to sell the island and build a more high-tech animal disease research facility in Kansas.
Last Wednesday, Oct. 6, the Department of Homeland Security gave a tour of the island to a group of environmentalists.
The tour was conducted for the Long Island Sound Study Group, a cooperative effort of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the states of New York and Connecticut, which has named Plum Island a significant estuary. Also on the tour were members of Preserve Plum Island, a Long Island-based coalition of 36 environmental groups ranging from local groups to the international Wildlife Conservation Society.
Preserve Plum Island is asking the Department of Homeland Security to transfer the wild portion of the island to the Fish and Wildlife Service as a nature preserve.
It wouldn’t be the only preserve in the area, which is an important flyway for at least 100 species of migrating birds. Great Gull Island, just to the east of Plum Island, is a bird sanctuary and a tern study area run by the American Museum of Natural History. Another small rocky outcropping known as The Ruins, once part of Gardiners Island, was given to the Fish and Wildlife Service last year.
“I think they’re interested. They’re in the area,” said Nature Conservancy policy advisor Randy Parsons of the Fish and Wildlife Service. Mr. Parsons was on the tour last Wednesday.
He said that The Nature Conservancy is pushing the federal government to complete a four-season biological inventory of the plants and animals on the island before the sale can be completed. The U.S. General Services Administration, the agency responsible for the sale of the island, is in the process of compiling a draft environmental impact statement detailing environmental issues that must be addressed before the sale. The EIS was initially expected to be complete this month but has been delayed until later this fall.
Environmental contamination on the island is a potential stumbling block for the sale. Mr. Parsons said that the U.S. General Accounting Office has documented several dozen toxic contamination sites on the island and has estimated the clean-up costs at as much as $190 million.
“There is definitely the feeling that the federal government shouldn’t be trying to market this thing. They should be cleaning up the mess and restore the island to its pre-U.S. government condition,” he said. “But I don’t think a lot of this would have come to light if they weren’t going to sell it.”
Stella Miller, president of the Huntington-Oyster Bay Audubon Society and a founder of Preserve Plum Island, was also on Wednesday’s tour. She said she was particularly impressed by a visit to a rocky outcropping on the island where 50 seals were hauled out on the rocks. She said that as many as 300 seals haul out at Plum Island at one time.
“Birds travel thousands of miles during migration and spots like Plum Island are necessary for their survival,” she said.
She said that tour participants were given an overview of work done on the island but that her tour guides were not interested in discussing the future of the facility, despite the fact that the visit was widely described in the media as a real estate open house.
“They didn’t go there,” she said. “They stayed neutral.”
GSA representative Paula Santangelo also remained stoic in her agency’s position on the future of the island.
“While the EIS will present several re-use scenarios, GSA doesn’t advocate any particular reuse,” she said Friday.
[email protected]