Press Release

Schumer, Gillibrand Urge Appropriations Leadership To Keep Plum Island Sale Off The Table

Nov 23, 2020

U.S. Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, joined colleagues in calling on the leadership of the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees on Financial Services and General Government, to maintain language included in the House-passed Financial Services and General Government bill to prevent the sale of Plum Island. This language was included in past-years’ appropriations legislation.  

“We must continue to do everything possible to protect and preserve Plum Island,” said Senator Schumer. “It would be a grave mistake to sell and develop Plum Island’s 840-acres of habitat, which is home to many endangered species. That’s why it’s important for the Appropriations Subcommittees to maintain language in this year’s government spending legislation that blocks the unnecessary sale requirement for Plum Island. I will continue to fight tooth and nail to protect and preserve this national treasure and its future.”

“Plum Island is a rare national treasure that should be protected and preserved for generations to come,” said Senator Gillibrand. “As leadership on the Appropriations Subcommittees works to finalize FY 2021 legislation, I am calling on them to prevent the unnecessary sale of Plum Island by maintaining the current moratorium on marketing and sale activities. I will continue to fight in the Senate to protect Plum Island and ensure that local voices are heard by the federal agencies responsible for the island’s future.” 

The senators have long-opposed the sale of Plum Island and have supported legislation to repeal the sale requirement and preserve the island for conservation purposes. In July, Senators Schumer and Gillibrand filed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2021 to protect the environmental integrity of Plum Island. The senators explained that a continued moratorium on activities to market and sell the island is necessary to allow for other options for the future of the island to be fully considered in coordination with local communities and stakeholders. 

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 and their “exemplary” ecological value by the Long Island Sound Stewardship Initiative, which was established by Congress. 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.

Gillibrand signed onto a bicameral letter led by Connecticut and Long Island lawmakers to Appropriations leadership this week. Read it here or below:


Dear Chairmen Kennedy and Quigley and Ranking Members Coons and Womack: 

Thank you for your work to finalize the (FY) 2021 appropriations legislation. As you seek compromise on key aspects of federal spending, we request that you maintain language included in the House-passed Financial Services and General Government bill, under H.R. 7617, to prevent the sale of Plum Island, New York. This language was included in past-years’ appropriations legislation, and we request that you once again extend the funding prohibitions in Section 635 of Public Law No: 116-93. This language is critical to prevent the unnecessary sale of Plum Island to the highest bidder.

We oppose the existing provisions in federal law that require the mandatory sale of Plum Island. For decades, Plum Island housed an animal research laboratory known as the Plum Island Animal Disease Center. Several years ago, Congress authorized the creation of a new replacement facility in Kansas, and required DHS to sell Plum Island in a public sale to offset the cost of the new facility. This requirement blocks the federal government from disposing of this property through normal processes. 

It is imperative that the sale requirement be blocked, and eventually repealed, for two reasons. First, the sale will no longer serve the purpose for which it was intended, as the Kansas location has since been funded and no longer requires the revenue from the sale of Plum Island. Second, Plum Island and its natural treasures must remain free from developers so that it can instead be preserved for future generations. In recent months, a coalition of local stakeholders has proposed realistic and feasible plans to realize the Island’s research and conservation potential, which remain hampered by existing federal law despite widespread and bipartisan support. By preventing the sale, we can take away the threat of private development, while continuing to work with our colleagues to craft an alternative, long-term path for this precious resource that allows it to remain with the federal government or a responsible entity for the purposes of conservation, education, and research. The House-passed language in Section 904, under Title IX of Division D of H.R. 7617 achieves this goal.  

We thank you for your attention to this critical matter.