FIRE ISLAND, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Pine trees on Long Island are under attack by a tiny destructive beetle, and now the battlefront has moved.

As CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported Wednesday, a federal team on Fire Island is now chopping down hundreds of trees in an effort to save a forest.

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A cold, blustery day is not ideal for the 8-mile boat ride across a choppy Great South Bay, but the forest rangers can’t pick their time and place. The southern pine beetle picked Fire Island.

“The mission is to limit the spread of the southern pine beetle across Long Island, but especially here on the Barrier Island,” said Elizabeth Rogers, spokesperson for Fire Island National Seashore.

Parts of the Fire Island National Seashore are now closed to the public for two weeks while the race is on to stop one of the most destructive forest pests, Gusoff reported.

After turning up for the first time in New York last fall, the infestation on Barrier Island, miles from the mainland, troubles biologists. If southern pine beetles can get to Fire Island, their reach is wider than suspected.

“It’s very mysterious. We are still trying to figure out how they got here,” said Fire Island National Seashore Biologist Jordan Raphael. “You would be surprised how far they could travel. They could have hitched a ride here possibly.”

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An army of beetles now ravage trees, and the only defense is to cut them down — a fate already suffered by 3,000 mainland pines, Gusoff reported.

At the Fire Island National Seashore, elite teams of arborists from around the country will take down 600 more.

“once we fell a tree then we cut up the trunk and lay it on the ground. A crew pulls the bark off and that facilitates the beetles dying,” explained Arborist Incident Response Team Member Chris Ulrey.

The cold winter had helped limit the spread of the beetles, but actually wasn’t cold enough to kill them, Gusoff reported. Rangers say they’re still finding living beetles that will fully emerge in a couple of weeks.

Fire Island’s Sunken Forest is a rare treasure with century-old pitch pines and holly sunken behind two ribbons of dunes. Forest rangers predict saving its pines could take years.

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Scientists believe southern pine beetles have extended their range north and west due to climate change. They’re asking homeowners who suspect they have an infestation to report it.