Senators Push for Plum Island Preservation

During a rare John M. Marshall Elementary School field trip to Plum Island last May, David Cataletto, a teacher, and a group of students got an up-close look at the fresh water lake, which is home to diverse populations of wildlife. Christine Sampson

United States Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand this week called again for the Senate to halt the sale of Plum Island to a private developer, saying the island should be instead designated as a national park or wildlife preserve.

A current law requires the sale of Plum Island, home to the Plum Island Animal Disease Center, as a means to offset the cost of building the new National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility in Kansas. According to a news release, the federal government expects to receive at least $32.85 million from the sale of the island. However, Senators Schumer and Gillibrand argued that that sum comes nowhere near what the government would actually be spending on the new facility in Kansas. They said Plum Island is priceless.

"With open space ever dwindling on Long Island, we should do everything possible to preserve the environmental and wildlife habitat that is Plum Island," Senator Schumer said in the release.

The 840-acre Plum Island is home to at least five species listed as endangered by either the federal government or New York State, including the piping plover and the roseate tern. The possible development of Plum Island is said to have the potential to also affect another endangered species, the Atlantic Ridley sea turtle.

The two senators introduced language in December legislation that would pave the way for a federal entity such as the National Park Service or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to take over Plum Island. Their push has the support of a senator from Connecticut, Richard Blumenthal, as well as many elected officials and citizens advocacy groups on Long Island, including Southold Town, New York State Assemblyman Steve Englebright, and the Citizens Campaign for the Environment.

"It would be an irreversible mistake to sell off Plum Island for private development, and we should instead ensure that it continues to be federally protected for future generations," Senator Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said in the release.