Plum Island is an 840-acre island located in eastern Long Island Sound, and last week New York state legislators spoke up to protect it.
Over the last 70 years, 80 percent of the island—once home to Fort Terry—has returned to its natural state; becoming a de facto wildlife refuge and home to several endangered species. The other 20 percent of the island is occupied by the nation’s foreign animal disease center, but it is scheduled to move in just a few years 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.)
Last week, led by NY State Senator Kenneth LaValle and State Assemblyman Steve Englebright, Long Island members of the NY State Senate and Assembly sent letters to U.S. Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand showing broad support for the protection of the island’s exemplary natural resources, and strong opposition to the federal government’s proposed sale of Plum Island. They explain that the original financial reasoning to sell Plum Island no longer makes sense.
“The rationale for disposing of Plum Island is to use proceeds from the sale of the island, after decommissioning costs, to help reduce the costs of site acquisition and construction of the new NBAF facility to be sited in Manhattan, Kansas. The basis of this rationale has been largely negated by high anticipated decommissioning costs and by the actions of the town of Southold, which in 2013, rezoned the property for research and conservation purposes and not for residential, commercial, or industrial development, thereby significantly reducing its market value.
“In recognition of the environmental, cultural, historic, recreational, and scenic values possessed by Plum Island, the undersigned members of the New York State Legislature strongly oppose the sale of Plum Island and wish to convey our support for transferring the undeveloped portions of Plum Island to the National Wildlife Refuge system…”
This important action by the NY State Senate and Assembly bolsters the work of the bi-state coalition of New York’s and Connecticut’s U.S. Senators to repeal the law that requires the sale of Plum Island.
Just yesterday, the U.S. Senators introduced Senate Bill 1675, which would repeal the law, and also require a report on the potential transfer of Plum Island to a federal agency most capable of conserving the undeveloped land.
Posted by Chris Cryder, special projects coordinator for CFE Save the Sound.