Plum Island is one step closer to permanent preservation, thanks to reporting language in the recently approved federal omnibus funding package.
The language expresses “support for the permanent conservation of Plum Island for the protection in perpetuity of its natural and cultural resources” and calls for a joint briefing to congressional committees by the agencies involved.
The Department of the Interior, the Department of Homeland Security and the General Services Administration are now directed to “provide a briefing to the committees regarding the closure and disposal process for the island’s permanent conservation, the possibility of interim ecological management, and options for permanent ownership of Plum Island, including management of and partnerships with state, federal, and tribal entities..”
An ecological gem, Plum Island is home to federally threatened and New York State-endangered piping plovers; about 228 other bird species have been sighted there. In addition, it is the largest seal haul-out site in New York, playing host to up to several hundred harbor and gray seals each winter. Over 111 species of conservation concern have been documented on the island and some of the waters surrounding it have been designated a “significant coastal fish and wildlife habitat” by New York State.
Currently owned by the federal government, it has been home to the Plum Island Animal Disease Center for nearly 70 years. Besides having nationally significant artifacts and historic buildings, the island is also highly valued by the Montaukett Indian Nation as part of its cultural heritage.
The 121 organizational members in the Preserve Plum Island Coalition have been working for more than a decade to ensure its permanent conservation.
John Turner, spokesperson for the Preserve Plum Island Coalition said the group is appreciative of the continuing commitment and support of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, Chris Murphy, and Richard Blumenthal, as well as Representative Joe Courtney, for the permanent protection of Plum Island.
“We thank our congressional champions for their collective leadership on this important issue,” Turner said in a written statement. “Their provision in the budget bill is a most wonderful holiday present.”