Momentum for the preservation of Plum Island continues to build.
Congressman Nicholas LaLota introduced legislation last week to make Plum Island a National Monument, permanently protecting the island off the northeastern tip of Long Island. Advocates successfully nixed a federal plan to auction off the land, home to the Plum Island Animal Disease Center, expected to close this year after seven decades.
“With this newly introduced bill, the permanent protection of Plum Island now is being considered by the full suite of federal decision-makers – Senators, members of the House of Representatives, the White House, and the relevant agencies,” said John Turner, spokesperson for the Preserve Plum Island Coalition.
“We strongly support this goal and look forward to working with Congressman LaLota’s office, his House colleagues, and our region’s Senators to achieve permanent protection for Plum Island, which it richly deserves,” he said, adding that the coalition greatly appreciated LaLota’s commitment to protecting Plum Island.
The declaration for the federally-owned island would need to be conferred by Congress or by the President under the 1906 Antiquities Act.
H.R. 1584, the “Plum Island National Monument Act,” would establish Plum Island as a “National Monument for the purpose of ecological conservation, historical preservation, and the discovery and celebration of our shared cultural heritage.”
The Secretary of the Interior’s administrative jurisdiction would be able to carry out the Act by entering into memoranda of understanding with relevant federal departments or agencies. It requires a management plan within three years of funding being granted, which must be submitted to the Committee on Natural Resources of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources of the Senate.
There has been a major effort afoot to preserve Plum Island.
Back in December, reporting language in the approved federal omnibus funding package expressed “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.
In addition to historic buildings, like the Plum Island Lighthouse, and endangered wildlife, the island contains artifacts highly valued by the Montaukett Indian Nation as part of its cultural heritage.
Plum Island is also home to federally threatened and New York State-endangered piping plovers and 228 other bird species and is the largest seal haul-out site in the state. Over 111 species of conservation concern have been documented on the island, according to PPIC.
The state designated Plum Gut, turbulent waters that run between the tip of the North Fork at Orient Point and Plum Island, as a “significant coastal fish and wildlife habitat.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senators Chris Murphy, Richard Blumenthal and Kirsten Gillibrand showed their support by securing the provision, which requires the Department of the Interior, the Department of Homeland Security and the General Services Administration to provide a briefing to Congressional Committees regarding the closure and disposal process for the island’s permanent conservation, interim ecological management, and options for permanent ownership by various entities, the coalition’s statement said.
“These legislative actions are logical and significant next steps in the Coalition’s more than decade-long effort to secure the permanent protection of Plum Island,” it continued.
Over the last year, more than 1,700 supporters, including Senators Schumer, Blumenthal, Murphy, and Gillibrand, have pledged their support, according to the Coalition. The full Long Island delegation to the New York State Legislature, the 18 Suffolk County Legislators, and every public official on the East End have sent letters to the White House requesting National Monument status for Plum Island.