A campaign to preserve more land in the Long Island Pine Barrens is underway.
On Tuesday, the Long Island Pine Barrens Society announced a drive, “The Best of the Rest,” to acquire the next 3,800 acres of what is referred to as “vital lands” in the Towns of Southampton, Riverhead and Brookhaven, not yet been permanently preserved.
“To use a sports analogy, we are kind of at the 10-yard line,” says John Turner, one of the society’s founders and board members who coined the campaign name. If the lands identified are acquired, “we think we’ll be able to punch it into the end zone in our efforts and preserving land in the pine barrens will be pretty much complete.”
Already, the society has successfully preserved 106,460 acres.
The society laid out 22 projects and has its eye on parcels along the Peconic and the Carmans Rivers, three acres adjacent to Sears-Bellows Park and the Shoreham Forest. On the eastern reaches of the Pine Barrens there are eight properties that total about 100 acres, Turner says.
The society is also looking at properties totaling 5 to 10 acres “to do in-filling” along the Pine Barrens Trail, “one of the recreational hallmarks of our reference to preserve the Pine Barrens,” Turner says.
“The neat thing on Long Island with 2.6 million Long Islanders is that you can hike from Rocky Point to all the way to Hampton Bays — you never leave public parkland. The Pine Barrens Trail is a significant part of that so we want to see some additional acquisitions in that area.”
Property surrounding EPCAL is also in sight. “Our hope is that a very significant part of EPCAL will be preserved,” he says.
The Long Island Pine Barrens Society’s mission is to combat overdevelopment, which ensures protected habitat and clean drinking water for Long Island residents.
“The Long Island Pine Barrens Society has been the faithful protector of Long Island’s most significant environmental resource, the Central Pine Barrens,” Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. said in a statement. “Through the efforts of the society, more than 100,000 acres of land were given special protection by the 1993 Pine Barrens Protection Act. With the announcement of this new initiative, I am deeply grateful that the work and mission of the society will take another next step to fulfill the intent of the Pine Barrens Act. Generations to come will be the beneficiaries.”
Assemblyman Steve Englebright supports the initiative, as well. “There is still much to be done to permanently protect environmentally sensitive areas that are contiguous to preserved parcels. The 3,800 acres proposed for preservation will finish the job of protecting these lands, essential habitat and Long Island’s drinking water.”
“The support from concerned Long Islanders has been terrific,” said Executive Director Richard Amper. “It is critical that we expand what we have protected so that we maintain high-quality drinking water and local flora and fauna continue to flourish,” Amper said.