SHELTER ISLAND, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – A community is searching for answers after more than 100 trees have had their tops illegally lopped off on Shelter Island.

Cedar, maple, cherry and oak trees have all been cut on roughly four acres of public coastal forest park land.

In some cases, just the tops were cut. In others, whole trees were felled. On a recent stroll, Jean Lawless says she was alarmed by what she found.

“I looked out and realized the extent of the damage,” she told CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff. “It looks like a bomb dropped.”

WEB EXTRA: Drone Footage Shows Trees Illegally Felled On Shelter Island

Lawless notified officials in the east end town where environmental protection is crucial.

“Trees were just topped anywhere from 10-15 feet in random, in a very reckless manner showing an insensitivity to the environment,” Shelter Island Town Supervisor Gary Gerth said.

Environmental advocates say the trees are vital to erosion control. Many of them, felled illegally over several acres of the Peconic Estuary overlooking Gardiner’s Bay, won’t grow back.

“It’s criminal but such a wrong thing to do,” Tim Purtell, head of Shelter Island Friends of Trees, said. “Most of us who live here, we want to protect and embrace what we have here.”

The Suffolk County District Attorney is looking into who would have done such a thing. Residents say it’s happened before, with homeowners trying to improve their water views.

The swath of felled trees is part of a coastal forest that is owned by Suffolk County. Whoever’s responsible could face thousands of dollars in fines per tree. Meanwhile, angry residents are pushing hard for prosecution to send a message that preserved land belongs to everyone.

The Suffolk park’s commissioner tells CBS2 they take these matters very seriously and have reported the case to the DA’s Environmental Crimes Unit.


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