by Aphrodite Montalvo, Public Participation Specialist, Office of Communication Services
DEC announces first prescribed fire of demonstration forest,
at Rocky Point Pine Barrens State Forest
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), in partnership with the Pine Barrens Joint Planning and Policy Commission, announced that it will be conducting the first prescribed burn, on the Demonstration Forest, at DEC’s Rocky Point Pine Barrens State Forest, in Suffolk County. DEC Forest Rangers, staff and volunteers, along with the Pine Barrens Commission, will complete a prescribed burn on three, three-acre blocks of the forest. The prescribed fire is weather dependent but anticipated in April.
This burn marks the first time the Demonstration Forest will be treated with prescribed fire. The Demonstration Forest is an ecological research operation, funded through a 2017 US Forest Service (USFS) grant. It was developed, by DEC and USFS foresters, to provide public education, on the benefits of fire and forest management, in the fight against the invasive insect: the Southern Pine Beetle.
The project consists of a 27 acre area. Nine acres serve as a control, where no treatment is administered. The remaining 18 acres have been thinned, according to silvicultural guidelines. Silviculture is the art and science of growing and manipulating trees and forests. Each of the three blocks of three acre sections will receive different treatments, to determine the treatment’s level of effectiveness. The three treatment options are: 1) control, 2) thinning and 3) thinning and burning. Previous research has shown that a thinned forest is healthier and more resilient, against Southern Pine Beetle attacks and infestation.
About prescribed burns
DEC conducts prescribed burns, on Long Island, year-round. Woodland units, through the combination of mechanical treatments and prescribed fire, can occur during any month, between February and November, when weather conditions permit. The plan calls for cooperation, among federal, state and local agencies, as well as not-for-profit organizations. Prescribed burns are conducted, in conjunction with personnel from the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, Suffolk County Department of Parks, Recreation and Conservation and local fire departments.
Prescribed fire is necessary, to promote and maintain the Long Island Pine Barrens ecosystem. Prescribed fire also improves wildlife habitat, by maintaining a diverse forest environment. Other benefits include a reduction, in highly combustible fuel loads, which could, potentially, feed a wild land fire, as well as establishing and maintaining fire breaks, which make control and access to wild land fires easier to obtain. Prescribed fires also represent a valuable training opportunity, for local firefighters, who develop skills needed, to fight wild land fires.
Before any prescribed fire is conducted, a burn plan is developed. Burn plans outline management’s objectives, as well as parameters, which must be satisfied, before any prescribed fire can take place. Careful consideration is given, to environmental factors, such as current and expected weather conditions and smoke management considerations, in close coordination with the National Weather Service. Individuals, who are interested in viewing copies of DEC’s Region One Fire Management Plans and individual burn unit plans or looking for general prescribed fire information, should contact DEC's Region One Forest Rangers, at (631) 444-0291 or Division of Lands and Forests, at (631) 444-0285.
DEC notifies local law enforcement and local fire-fighting agencies, before conducting any prescribed fires. However, the public is encouraged to report smoke columns, to local authorities. More information, on wildfire prevention, may be found on the FIREWISE New York webpage.
Southern Pine Beetle
The invasive pest Southern Pine Beetle, a bark beetle, native to the southern United States, has steadily expanded its range, North and West, possibly due to climate change. It is considered one of the most destructive forest pests in the United States and attacks all species of pine, including pitch pine, the predominant species found in the Long Island Pine Barrens. Prior to its discovery, on Long Island, Southern Pine Beetle had reached as far north as New Jersey, devastating nearly 50,000 acres of Pine Barrens, in that state. An estimated 1,000 new acres of pine forests, in New Jersey, have been destroyed, each year, by this beetle, since it was found, in that state, in 2001.
Adult beetles bore into the bark of trees, then lay eggs, in S-shaped tunnels, just beneath the bark. This disrupts the flow of nutrients, killing the tree in, typically, two to four months. Insecticides have been shown to be mostly ineffective, against Southern Pine Beetle and are a threat to the sole source drinking water aquifer. A Southern Pine Beetle fact sheet, with photos and information, related to the recent areas of discovery, are available, on DEC’s website, at http://www.dec.ny.go...mals/99331.html.