Mastic man arrested for illegal deforestation of Commerdinger County Park

Mastic man arrested for illegal deforestation of Commerdinger County Park

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Suffolk County District Attorney Raymond A. Tierney announced on Dec. 6 that Terence Wolffe, 41, of Mastic, was arrested for alleged felony criminal mischief and related charges for intentionally damaging parkland in the undeveloped wilderness of Walter S. Commerdinger Jr. County Park on Edgewood Avenue in Nesconset.

“The destruction of county parklands is an affront to our quality of life in Suffolk County,” said District Attorney Tierney. “We will never stand by and allow Suffolk’s beautiful and unique ecosystem to be compromised. I commend our county’s Park Rangers for their diligence in this case and look forward to further strengthening the working partnership between our offices.”

“The investigation by Rangers assigned to the Targeted Response Unit led to their apprehension and arrest of the defendant,” said Chief Park Ranger Steve Laton. “The Ranger’s actions coupled with D.A. Tierney’s tough stance on environmental crimes prevented further destruction of environmentally sensitive county parkland.” According to the investigation, over a prolonged period of time until his capture, Wolffe would travel to an off-trail area in the interior of the park to clear and excavate a personal “hang-out” spot in the woods.

Using machetes, axes, and shovels, Wolffe allegedly chopped down native trees, removed native vegetation, and dug up ground-brush, thatch, soil, dirt and earth from an area approximately 1,150 square feet in dimension. Wolffe would then pile the displaced brush, soil, and tree limbs upon adjacent park land (smothering other native vegetation). While some trees around the periphery were left standing, Wolffe had allegedly hacked and sectioned their roots, causing severe and fatal damage that, in turn, jeopardized those on trails from falling timber. The defendant allegedly dug so deep in certain spots that his actions redirected water flow from nearby wetlands into the cleared zone.

Preliminary environmental estimates place the replacement value of the felled trees and cleared plants at approximately $20,000. This number does not incorporate restoration of the parkland’s natural grade; nor does it incorporate the extensive labor and equipment costs for remediation.

Wolffe was arrested on December 5, 2023. On December 6, 2023, Wolffe was arraigned by Acting County Court Judge the Honorable James McDonough, for the crime of Criminal Mischief in the Second Degree, a Class D felony, and multiple related Environmental Conservation Law and Suffolk County Code violations. Under current New York State law, the offenses charged are not considered bail eligible, so the defendant was released on his own recognizance. Wolffe is due back in court on December 11, 2023.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Jed L. Painter of the District Attorney’s Biological, Environmental, and Animal Safety Team (BEAST) with investigative assistance from the Suffolk County Parks Department.