West Tisbury is questioning the state’s plan to deal with the invasive Southern pine beetle, raising concerns about the possibility of heightened fire risk. The West Tisbury Select Board raised the concerns during a meeting last week.
The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation plans to cut trees down in the West Tisbury portion of Manuel F. Correllus State Forest, to halt the spread of the invasive beetles. According to the proposed plan, the department will be cutting down a collective 100 infested pitch pines from two parts of the forest. A buffer zone will also be created to mitigate further spread of Southern pine beetles.
“All pitch pine will be cut and left in place, retaining all other species” the plan reads.
The state announced its intentions to deal with the insects at the end of August. While Southern pine beetles are native to the southern U.S., the species expanded its range northward due to a warming climate.
During the select board meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 7, town administrator Jennifer Rand said the plan is expected to take effect in the next couple of weeks, but the method seems to be adding more “dead weight” in the State Forest.
“All of the areas, when you look at the map, appear to be encapsulated in a larger pitch pine area, so I’m unclear why you wouldn’t take them out so that more pines don’t get infected,” Rand said. “But I’m not a tree person.”
Board chair Skipper Manter proposed consulting West Tisbury Fire Chief Greg Pachico about the plan. “We’re adding to the tinderbox,” Manter said, wondering if another option was available.
The board will follow up on the plan during its Wednesday, Sept. 13, meeting.
Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation president and licensed forester Adam Moore told The Times on Thursday the “cut and leave” measure was an acceptable way to deal with pitch pine trees infested with Southern pine beetles.
“Moving logs that have beetles beneath the bark will just spread the infestation around,” Moore said. “It is sensible, however, to ask a forest landowner about plans to reduce the fuel load post-cutting.”