|Long Island Central Pine Barrens|
|Location||New York, United States|
|Area||100,000 acres (400 km2)|
|Governing body||Central Pine Barrens Joint Planning and Policy Commission|
The Long Island Central Pine Barrens (also known as the Long Island Pine Barrens) is a large area of publicly protected pine barrens in Suffolk County, New York, on Long Island, covering more than 100,000 acres (405 km2).
The Barrens operates in a similar manner to Adirondack Park, with public lands managed by a mix of federal, state, county and local public land managers intermixed with private inholdings.
It is Long Island's largest natural area and its last remaining wilderness. The region contains a remnant of the Atlantic coastal pine barrens ecoregion, whose forests might once have covered a quarter million acres (1,000 km²) on Long Island.
The Central Pine Barrens overlays and recharges a portion of a federally designated sole source aquifer for Long Island's drinking water. All of Long Island's drinking water comes from ground water wells; none of the island's water comes from reservoirs. Almost all of the Peconic River and Carmans River (two of Long Island's four biggest rivers) as well as much of their watersheds are in the Barrens.
In the 1970s the State of New York began acquiring large parcels to create a greenbelt. The federal government at Brookhaven National Laboratory transferred 2,300 acres (9 km2) in 1971 and RCA transferred 7,200 acres (29 km2) around Rocky Point in 1978 (for a cost of $1).
In 1984 the Pine Barrens Review Commission was created to review development in the region. In 1986 the Suffolk County Open Space Program financed by a 0.25% sales tax was to result in 28 new Suffolk County Parks in the region totalling 4,600 acres (19 km2)
Despite the efforts development pressure continued and in 1989 the Long Island Pine Barrens Society filed a multibillion-dollar suit against Suffolk County, and the towns of Brookhaven, Riverhead and Southampton. The Society eventually lost its suit in the New York's highest court—the New York Court of Appeals—after winning in earlier courts.
In 1993 the New York State Legislature approved the Long Island Pine Barrens Protection Act to protect the region through the development and implementation of a comprehensive land use plan. The act also created the Central Pine Barrens Joint Planning & Policy Commission to oversee the plan, and divided the area into two regions:
- A core 53,000 acres (214 km2) area where no development is permitted at all. The area was expanded to 55,000 acres (223 km2) in 1998 with the addition of Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge. Seventy-five percent of the land in the core area is to be acquired. A provision of the law allows private ownership in the core area provided there is a transfer of development rights arrangement where the owner can build elsewhere by transferring ownership of the core lands to a government entity.
- A Compatible Growth Area of 47,000 acres (190 km2) where limited, environmentally compatible development is allowed.
Sunrise Wildfire of 1995
In late August-early September 1995, a series of major brush fires swept through the pine barrens region. The first major fire incident occurred in Rocky Point, but was extinguished within days of its outbreak. A larger, more catastrophic fire erupted in the Westhampton area just shortly after the Rocky Point blaze was brought to an end. The fire, aided by high winds and dry conditions, quickly spread, threatening area homes and businesses. The fire was nicknamed the "Sunrise Wildfire", as it engulfed both sides of Sunrise Highway, the major highway connecting the Hamptons region with the rest of Long Island. The fires closed down the highway and stopped railroad service, effectively cutting the Hamptons off from the rest of the island for days as firefighters from all over Long Island, the FDNY and Connecticut worked around the clock to battle the blaze.
By early September, the Sunrise Wildfire was extinguished, but the results of that fire, in addition to the Rocky Point fire, were disastrous: Approximately 7,000 acres (28 km2) had burned, numerous homes and small businesses suffered damage, and 400 people were forced to evacuate their homes. The fire, which erupted during the peak of the Hamptons' tourist season, resulted in a considerable economic blow for the region. However, the human toll was very light, a few firefighters suffered injuries, and nobody was killed in the event.
As of 2007, the region has mostly recovered from the damage it sustained, although some vegetation still bears the scars of the fire. Pine Barren ecosystems are highly adapted to fire and generally require periodic fires to maintain their unique vegetation and wildlife.
Brookhaven Blaze of 2012
On April 9, 2012, several brushfires joined together to ignite over 2,000 acres (8.1 km2) of woodland around Manorville, Ridge and Brookhaven. By the end of the day, the fires were intense enough to cause a closure of parts of the Long Island Expressway. Parts of Riverhead were placed under mandatory evacuation.
Brush fire burned 1,124 acres (4.55 km2) of pine lands. About 600 firefighters from about 109 departments battled the fire with 30 brush trucks, 20 tankers, and 100 engines. Airdrops of water were made by a New York State Police helicopter.
The Central Pine Barrens Commission and the Migliarino-San Rossore-Massaciuccoli (MSRM) Regional Park in Tuscany, Italy are "twin parks" under a New York State program which supports such programs with the goal of sharing knowledge and experience between the citizens of both regions.
- "Early Efforts". Long Island Pine Barrens Society. Retrieved August 14, 2016.
- "Saving the Pines". Long Island Pine Barrens Society. Retrieved August 14, 2016.
- County Executive Steve Levy, Supervisor Bill McGintee and Members of The Ross School Hail Preservation of 71 Acres - co.suffolk.ny.us[dead link]
- "Long Island firefighters tackle huge brush fire". Newsday. April 10, 2012. Retrieved August 14, 2016.
- "Ridge-Manorville fire update". Newsday. April 12, 2012. Retrieved April 12, 2012.
- Casey, Eileen (April 12, 2012). "Fires Finally Out: Thanks To All Our Brave Fire Fighters And Others". Hamptons. Retrieved April 12, 2012.
- Murphy, Robert Cushman. Fish-Shape Paumanok: Nature and Man on Long Island
- Turner, John. Exploring the Other Island: A Seasonal Guide to Nature on Long Island