Zeldin Announces Major Breakthrough to Protect Plum Island

Plum Island press conferencesmmProtect Plum IslandsmCongressman Lee Zeldin (R, NY-1) hosted a press conference on Sunday, April 24. 2016 to announce a major breakthrough on legislation he introduced in Congress just over one year ago, to prevent the sale of Plum Island by the federal government to the highest bidder (H.R. 1887). Joined by supportive local elected officials, environmental groups and residents who are concerned with the sale of Plum Island, Congressman Zeldin announced that his bill, H.R. 1887, will be marked up with an amendment and voted on in the House Homeland Security Committee, this upcoming week on April 28, 2016, releasing the bill from committee and allowing it to come to a vote on the House floor this year. The bill as amended will commission the Government Accountability

Office, in consultation with the Department of Homeland Security, which currently owns the island, to formulate a comprehensive plan for the future of the island. This plan will include possible alternative uses for the island including a transfer of ownership to another federal agency, the state or local government, a non-profit, or a combination thereof for the purpose of education, research, and conservation.
Since World War II, Plum Island has been utilized as a research laboratory. The facility, which has been under federal jurisdiction since 1899, has since grown to become what is known today as the Plum Island Animal Disease Center. In 2005, the Department of Homeland Security, which currently has jurisdiction over the island, announced that the Animal Disease Center research would be moved to a new federal facility, the Bio-and-Agro Defense Facility (NBAF) in Kansas. To offset the cost of this relocation, a law was enacted that called for the private sale of Plum Island to the highest bidder. However, due to the costs associated with the cleanup and closure of Plum Island, and because of Southold Town zoning restrictions, the federal government would receive little compensation for the sale of Plum Island.
Allowing for continued research, public access and permanent preservation of the island, Congressman Zeldin’s bill, H.R. 1887, will reverse a 2008 law that mandated the public sale of Plum Island by the federal government to the highest bidder.
Congressman Zeldin said, “Situated at the gateway of the Long Island Sound, Plum Island is treasured by our local community. As a critical resource for research, approximately 90% of the land on Plum Island has been sheltered from development, offering Long Island a diverse wildlife and ecosystem and a critical habitat for migratory birds, marine mammals, and rare plants. With recorded history dating back to the 1700s, Plum Island is also an essential cultural and historical resource as well. To protect this precious land, I introduced legislation in Congress last year that would prevent the sale of the island by the federal government to the highest bidder. I am pleased to inform you that my bill, which has strong bipartisan support from the entire Long Island and Connecticut delegation in both the House and Senate, is now moving forward in the House, with an expected vote out of the House Homeland Security Committee expected as early as Thursday, April 28, of this upcoming week. Working with my colleagues in the House and Senate, and supportive groups in the tristate area like the Preserve Plum Island coalition, I will continue pushing for passage of this critical bill out of committee and on the House floor so that we protect Plum Island.”
New York State Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo said, “Great work by Congressman Zeldin to keep this legislation moving through the House as we are all quite concerned about the fate of Plum Island. Congressman Zeldin continues to prove that he is a man of action.”
Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell said, “I want to thank Congressman Zeldin for making the preservation of Plum Island a top priority. Protection of Plum Island is critically important to the people of the East End. The Congressman’s leadership and vision on this important issue lets us all know we have a champion for our cause in Washington.
“Thanks to Congressman Zeldin’s leadership, Plum Island is on the verge of being forever protected from being purchased and developed by private owners. Preserving this island will allow generations to
Erin Crotty, Director of the Audubon New York Executive Director, said, “Audubon New York applauds Congressman Zeldin for his leadership in the fight to stop the sale of Plum Island and protect this vital habitat for generations to come. As the human footprint expands, natural and critical habitat like that found on Plum Island becomes increasingly scarce. More than 210 bird species breed or forage on Plum Island and in adjacent coastal waters, including many threatened and endangered species. It’s urgent that the island be permanently preserved for conservation, recreation, education, and research.”
Bill Toedter, President of the North Fork Environmental Council, said, “Over the past six decades, the current Plum Island operation has served not only the region and the nation well, it has served the best interests of the whole world. Now, as the mission of the current lab transitions, it’s in the hands of our elected representatives to ensure that the island continues to serve the best interests of the region and our nation. With its unique location and its diverse and dynamic terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, and the animals they support, Plum Island is a national treasure which must be protected and preserved. Only by doing so, can this unique and important national treasure continue to flourish and serve the interests of nature, science and the public. Residents and businesses of the North Fork have long known the importance of Plum Island. We ask our national representatives to understand that importance and move to preserve Plum Island for future generations.”
“As we celebrate Earth Week, we are reminded that the perpetual protection of Plum Island is an incredible opportunity to preserve a significant natural and historical asset of our East End community. We urge the Federal government to adopt a conservation plan for the island that will benefit all! It’s a rare opportunity – one we should not miss,” said John v.H. Halsey, President of the Peconic Land Trust.
“We applaud Congressman Zeldin for taking bold steps to enact legislation to protect Plum Island — a national treasure. With seven miles of natural shoreline, hundreds of bird species, seals, rare plants, and 700 undeveloped acres, it’s considered one of The Nature Conservancy’s top land preservation priorities for Long Island,” said Nancy Kelley, Executive Director for The Nature Conservancy on Long Island. “Conservation of Plum Island is all the more important as it straddles two national estuaries of significance, the Long Island Sound and Peconic Estuary.”
“Plum Island is home to a unique mix of ecosystems and wildlife, some of which are endangered, and has immeasurable environmental value,” said Ashley Hunt-Martorano, Director of Marketing & Events at Citizens’ Climate Lobby. “Preserving open space by protecting Plum Island against the sale and private development is a gift to our community now, and to generations to come. I commend Congressman Zeldin for his efforts in securing bipartisan support to protect this natural resource.”

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