U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand today urged the Senate Committee on Appropriations to prevent Plum Island from being sold to a private developer. Schumer and Gillibrand are pushing to repeal law that would allow the land to be sold to be the highest bidder. Plum Island is currently home to the Plum Island Animal Disease Center (PIADC), a federal facility that will soon be put up for sale by GSA in order to offset the construction costs of new facility being constructed in Kansas. Schumer and Gillibrand said that the property should be obtained by a federal agency, like the National Park Service or U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,that will commit to preserving Plum Island as an ecological resource.
The senators today said that because Plum Island has immense environmental value, the Senate should repeal current language that requires it be sold to a private entity.
“With open space ever dwindling on Long Island, we should do everything possible to preserve the environmental and wildlife habitat that is Plum Island,” said Senator Schumer. “We should change current law and prevent Plum Island from being sold to a private developer. It would be a mistake and lost opportunity to rip apart this unique 840-acre environmental setting and destroy the habitat of the endangered species that live there.”
“Plum Island is home to diverse wildlife, including numerous endangered species, and we must preserve its critical habitat and natural resources,” said Senator Gillibrand, a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee. “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.”
“Plum Island contains an abundance of unique and rare environmental qualities that preservation programs across our nation have been fighting to protect. We only have one chance to preserve something truly unique and since the federal government owes this land, they should preserve this land. Selling Plum Island for development would be hypocritical and antithetical to all the programs designed to restore Long Island Sound, protect endangered species and listen to the will of the pubic which strongly favors preservation,” said Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “We are very thankful that Senator Schumer is a champion for this issue.”
The 840-acre Plum Island is home to a number of species, including Osprey, Bank Swallow, Piping Plovers as well as many plants. Plum Island and the 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. According to the final Environmental Impact Statement, a vast number of species may be impacted by possible development scenarios, including at least two endangered species – the piping plover and the roseate tern. In addition, development on Plum Island may affect the endangered Atlantic Ridley Sea Turtle and three other New York State-listed endangered or threatened species.
For the last decade, local municipalities, land preservation and environmental organizations on Long Island made tremendous strides toward preserving open space on Long Island. Unfortunately, due to federal law, one of the largest parcels on Long Island is unable to be preserved and returned to a natural state.
The original intent of the sale was to offset some of the costs related to building a National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) in Manhattan, Kansas and remediating the Island. The federal government would receive an estimated $32.85 million from such a sale. Schumer and Gillibrand said that this money pales in comparison to the overall cost of the state-of-the-art Kansas facility and that of the environmental value of Plum Island is priceless.
Senators Schumer and Gillibrand included language in the December 2015 Omnibus to require the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in cooperation with the General Service Administration (GSA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Department of Interior (DOI) to conduct a report on the best alternatives for conserving Plum Island’s natural and historic resources. It is imperative that the sale requirement be repealed, so that the forthcoming report can act as a guide for preserving Plum Island in the absence of a forced sale. Both Senator Schumer and Gillibrand believe that the Island is a critical habitat and a pristine landscape that must be protected in perpetuity.
Schumer and Gillibrand today made a new push to change current federal language that mandates the sale of Plum Island to the highest bidder, thus preventing the transfer of sale to another federal agency. Schumer and Gillibrand said that NPS or the FWS could be interested in taking possession of the property. Schumer and Gillibrand said by preventing the sale of Plum Island, we are ensuring the land is protected and preserved because it will allow federal agencies to take ownership of the land. Schumer and Gillibrand said that a federal agency like NPS or FWS would be committed to preserving and protecting the environment, including critical habitat for threatened or endangered wildlife, and should have the ability to take ownership of the site. Schumer and Gillibrand said they will continue to fight to make sure the property is not privately developed.