A Mastic man pleaded guilty to illegally deforesting Walter S. Commerdinger Jr. County Park. As a result, he is now mandated to contribute socially, physically, and financially towards the county’s efforts to improve the environment.
Terence Wolffe, 42, damaged county parkland within the confines of the park. Beginning in April 2023, Wolffe traveled 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 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 then piled the displaced brush, soil, and tree limbs upon adjacent parkland (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 depth of Wolffe’s excavation caused the adjacent wetland to flood into the pit.
Wolffe’s conduct was detected in November 2023 by Suffolk County Park Rangers. He was confronted at the scene and ultimately arrested on December 5, 2023, after a full site investigation was completed. He was also cited for having a machete on county parklands.
In December 2023, Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney announced his “Evergreen Initiative,” a broad-based enforcement, awareness, and legislative plan to counter-act destruction of Suffolk’s natural environment. A component of this initiative is the DA’s commitment to incorporate environmental stewardship into plea agreements. As an illustration of this plan in action, the conditions of Wolffe’s plea require him to accumulate a total of 100 “Green Points.” Among the activities that Wolffe must participate in include organizing and taking part in beach clean-ups, raising funds for a Suffolk environmental nonprofit, and making financial restitution.
Wolffe is mandated, under terms of his plea, to accumulate his points through a combination of Green Point types, rather than focus purely on just one avenue.
Wolffe must achieve at least 50 Green Points within seven months of his entering a guilty plea. Wolffe then must acquire any outstanding points within six months of his sentencing. Any
unearned points will convert to jail time.
Additionally, Wolffe will also have to file monthly reports to the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office on his progress and submit a personal statement describing, at a minimum, his experiences in undertaking the activities, a review of the organizations he came into contact with, ideas for future environmental endeavors and lessons learned from his experiences.
“This is the perfect balance of what we believe is the future of combatting environmental crimes. Not only will this defendant have to pay for the damage he has done, but he is also mandated to be
a part of the solution or face jail time,” Tierney said. “Beyond simple remediation, this court-mandated comprehensive plan develops, cleans and adds stewards of environmental care in Suffolk County.”