Plum Island is an 840-acre island located in eastern Long Island Sound, and over the last 70 years, 80 percent of the island has been allowed to return to a natural state—becoming a de facto wildlife refuge and home to several endangered species. The other 20 percent of island is occupied by the nation’s foreign animal disease center, but it is scheduled to move in the early 2020s to a new facility, called the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) in Manhattan, Kansas. A law passed in 2009, requires the sale of Plum Island to help pay for the construction costs of the new facility. (Save the Sound’s position is that the language of the law permits a bifurcated sale: one that allows for the sale of the already developed portion of the island (where the animal disease center is) and the conservation of the remaining undeveloped habitat.)
A bi-state, bi-partisan coalition of NY and CT senators, as well as congresspersons, have been working over the past several years to repeal the law that requires the sale of Plum Island in order to protect and conserve this island gem. And in the below letter, Senators Blumenthal, Schumer, Murphy, and Gillibrand make the argument that the repeal of the law makes even more sense today, now that the economic reasoning for the original law no longer does.
This is an excerpt from the letter; click here to read the full letter.
“As senators from the Long Island Sound region, we remain deeply concerned about the effects of a forced sale and development of Plum Island on the landscape and ecological value of the area. As explained further below, the rationale for selling the island to the highest bidder no longer makes economic sense, and we respectfully request the [Senate Committee on Appropriations] work with us in providing the General Services Administration (GSA) with the flexibility it needs to transfer the Island to another federal agency.
The environmental significance of the Plum Island area cannot be overstated. The 840-acre Plum Island and adjacent Great Gull and Little Gull Islands were identified for protection in 2006 by the federally created Long Island Sound Stewardship Initiative, which singled them out for their ‘exemplary’ ecological value. The final Environmental Impact Statement documents the vast number of species that may be impacted by possible development scenarios, including at least two endangered species – the piping plover and the roseate tern. In addition, development of Plum Island may affect the endangered Atlantic Ridley Sea Turtle and three other New York State-listed endangered or threatened species.”
Posted by Chris Cryder, special projects coordinator for CFE/Save the Sound