Where and what are the "Central Pine Barrens"
of New York ?
New York's southeasternmost county, Suffolk, occupies the eastern end of
Long Island, and comprises over 900 square miles of terrestrial and marine
environments. Three of Suffolk County's ten townships are host to the 100,000+
acre, New York State designated region known as the Central Pine Barrens.
A rich concoction of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, interconnected
surface and ground waters, recreational niches, historic locales, farmlands,
and residential communities, this region contains the largest remnant of
a forest thought to have once encompassed over a quarter million acres
on Long Island. The Central Pine Barrens overlies one portion of
Long Island's federally designated sole source aquifer for drinking water.
What is special about New York's “Central” Pine
1992: NY State Court of Appeals decision started a Legislative process
to end 30+ years of land use uncertainty and litigation.
1993: NY State Legislature passed the “Long Island Pine Barrens Protection
Act”, protecting the largest, “central” remaining Long Island Pine Barrens
Principal goals of the Act:
Protection of groundwater, surface water, and future drinking water
supplies for 1.8 million residents
Protection of a threatened landscape containing the greatest diversity
of rare, threatened and endangered species in NY State.
What does the Pine Barrens Protection Act do ?
Creates a five member Commission representing the State, Suffolk County,
and the Towns of Brookhaven, Riverhead and Southampton.
Gives the Commission a broad spectrum of responsibilities and powers:
What is the Commission’s Purview ?
Comprehensive Plan development & implementation
Transfer of development rights authority
Public lands stewardship
Under NY Environmental Conservation Law Article 57, the Commission
produced and implements a Comprehensive Land Use Plan.
The Act and the Plan charge the Commission with the combined duties
of a state agency, a planning board, and a park commission:
Categories and Principles of Land Use Regulation in
the Central Pine Barrens:
Land use review, permitting, and enforcement authority in the Central Pine
Barrens, along with the local municipalities.
Establishment and operation of a transferable development rights and conservation
Coordination of public lands stewardship and management on a regional basis.
The Commission’s stewardship work is advanced by a
set of “Councils”:
Central Pine Barrens (102,500 acres) = Core Preservation Area
(55,000 acres) + Compatible Growth Area (CGA) (47,500 acres).
Core development is prohibited without a hardship permit from the Commission.
CGA development must adhere to land use restrictions in 1995 Pine Barrens
Plan, otherwise a Commission permit is required.
Core property is eligible for “Pine Barrens Credits” - transferable development
rights - in exchange for a permanent conservation easement. These development
rights are sold on the private market and utilized for additional development
on designated receiving sites.
Certain development projects are “grandfathered” or “exempt”.
They have responsibility for:
Stewardship Initiatives – Land Management:
Protected Lands Management
Twelve public and conservation land owners – Federal through
local - cooperate through a Protected Lands Council, addressing:
Stewardship Initiatives – Law Enforcement:
Development of a single regional management plan
Performing field inventories and projects
Pooling resources (staff, mapping, equipment, training budgets, knowledge,
The Law Enforcement Council’s eighteen agencies with law enforcement,
investigation, prosecution, emergency response, or enforcement support
Stewardship Initiatives – Fire Management:
Interagency protocols for enforcement of all applicable land use and natural
Interagency enforcement of laws regarding dumping, off road vehicles, poaching,
arson, weapons, land use violations, and others.
Court case tracking, information sharing, and joint training exercises.
Joint fire service – law enforcement concerns, including arson, training,
& incident response.
Interagency equipment purchases, grant applications, civilian – military
cooperation, public outreach, and citizen complaint response.
NY State law requires the Central Pine Barrens Plan to address “Provisions
for fire management for controlled, prescribed burning, and responses to
unanticipated fires.” Towards this end, the Wildfire Task Force brings
together 41 public and private agencies to:
Investing in Stewardship – the Scientific Research
Produce and implement a Pine Barrens Fire Management Plan
Perform fire protection assessments
Operate a prescribed fire program
Run a fire weather and daily fire danger posting program, including broadcasts,
web postings, roadside signs, and fax notifications.
Run the NY Wildfire and Incident Management Academy, a National Wildfire
Coordinating Group training venue
Operate an air ground firefighting training program
Work cooperatively on arson investigation & prevention
Operate a public outreach program.
Annual Pine Barrens Research Forum held each October since 1996 provides
a glimpse into the latest field research questions about the “barrens”
of the U.S., cosponsored with the Brookhaven National Laboratory and SUNY
at Stony Brook’s Long Island Groundwater Research Institute.
Support for the work of the Upton Ecological and Research Reserve at Brookhaven
Cooperation with the Foundation for Ecological Research in the Northeast
References & Leads:
Our two basic guiding documents are:
Our basic information repository is:
The Law: “The (NY State) Long Island Pine Barrens Protection Act
of 1993”, codified in “New York Environmental Conservation Law Article
57”. Passed in July of 1993. Subsequently amended several times,
as recently as August of 2003.
The Regional Plan: “Central Pine Barrens Comprehensive Land Use Plan”,
June 1995. Produced at the close of a strictly defined two year planning
period, starting with the July 1993 passage of the law. (Law contained
a “sunset provision” that would have abolished the Commission and Act if
this deadline was not met.) Amended twice since then, with a third
amendment in progress.
(Updated May 2004.)
The Commission web site at: www.pb.state.ny.us
The Act and the Plan are both available there, along with a ton – give
or take – of other material.