Protecting Plum Island From Development
Located less than a mile from Orient Point, the tip of Long Island’s North Fork, lies the 840 acre, pork chop-shaped Plum Island. Well-known from Nelson DeMille's book of the same title and even more so because of the Plum Island Animal Disease Center ("PIADC") that exists there, this wildlife rich island is a vital stopover site and breeding ground for migratory birds, seals and other species. Unfortunately, its ecological resources are in danger of being lost. In 2008, Congress approved sale of parts of the island, with plans to move the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility to another state. While the legislation required only the sale of those parts of the island that supported the PIADC and required government interests to be protected and government programs to be followed, the General Services Administration and the Department of Homeland Security are seeking to sell the entire island to the highest bidder, without measures to conserve or protect the government’s interests in preservation.
The approximately 90% of Plum Island that is undeveloped holds significant ecological and scenic sites.
In fact, Plum Island has been recognized as:
“Important Bird Area” – Audubon, New York
“Critical Natural Resource Area” – US Fish and Wildlife Service
“Peconic Bay Environs Critical Environmental Area” - Suffolk County, New York
“New York State Significant Coastal Fish & Wildlife Habitat” – NYS Dept. of State
“Environmental Stewardship Area” - Long Island Sound Study
The Island also holds nationally-significant artifacts and historic buildings – including the 1870 Plum Gut Lighthouse and the 1897 Fort Terry army barracks and weapons batteries. Plum Island’s scenic value, ecological resources and historic sites offer tremendous potential for recreation and public education, and make it an ideal candidate for permanent preservation.
Wild Birds Unlimited of Syosset is proud to be a part of the efforts to protect this beautiful island as members of the Preserve Plum Island Coalition.
For more information, please visit the Preserve Plum Island Coalition website
In July 2016, we sued the federal government under the Endangered Species Act and other laws, to encourage a conservation sale. In early 2017 the government moved to dismiss our complaint. We filed a response and expect a decision on the motion to dismiss by fall 2017.
In recent years, New York lawmakers have introduced bipartisan legislation to stop the sale of Plum Island, with limited success. In April 2017, Congressman Lee Zeldin re-introduced his 2016 bill to halt the sale of Plum Island, which passed the House last year but died in the Senate.
Also in April 2017, Long Island’s East End Mayors and Supervisors banded together to issue Plum Island conservation request letters to New York legislators and Governor Andrew Cuomo. These followed a January 2017 letter from the village of Greenport urging New York Senator Charles Schumer to ensure the island stays in federal ownership.
In May 2017, all 18 members of the Suffolk County Legislature signed a letter sent to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo urging him to utilize the state’s authority to stop the federal government from selling Plum Island.
As of September 2017, the Preserve Plum Island Coalition has grown to include more than 80 organizations fighting to see the island’s undeveloped acreage protected in perpetuity as a National Wildlife Refuge or preserve.
Photo: Preserve Plum Island Coalition