On August 3, 2017, Senators Richard Blumenthal and Christopher Murphy of Connecticut and Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer of New York introduced new legislation to repeal the 2009 and 2012 laws that initiated federal government efforts to sell Plum Island to the highest bidder.
If passed by the House and signed by the President, S.1737, The Plum Island Conservation Act, would remove language in earlier bills that sought to sell Plum Island. This would enable the normal transfer process that federal land follows when an agency no longer wishes to maintain ownership; this procedure allows conservation agencies or state and local entities to acquire and protect the land at no cost.
Earlier this year, New York and Connecticut Senators and Representatives sent letters to the House and Senate appropriations subcommittees on Homeland Security, advocating for the full repeal of the laws mandating a sale of Plum Island. That effort will come full circle once voted on by the Senate, passed by the House, and signed by the president.
In July, the House passed legislation requiring the Government Accountability Office to study how best to conserve the island and come up with alternatives to a sale. The bill also suspends any sales activity of the island while the study is completed.
The Senate version goes one step further and repeals the original language seeking to sell Plum Island.
"We are grateful for the unwavering support of our Senators in the fight to protect Plum Island," said Leah Schmalz, Program Director for Connecticut Fund for the Environment/Save the Sound. "We look forward to working with our congressional delegation and our allies in the coming months as we work to make this bill law. Plum Island is a unique and irreplaceable gem that should not be sold to the highest bidder."
"Once again Senators Gillibrand, Blumenthal, and Murphy have demonstrated their strong and unwavering commitment toward protecting Plum Island by introducing legislation to repeal the ill-conceived law that has the island on a path to be sold to the highest bidder," said John Turner, Spokesperson of the Preserve Plum Island Coalition (PPIC). "PPIC very much supports and appreciates their efforts and hopes they are successful in passing the measure, putting them in a position to work with Congressman Zeldin to resolve differences in the Senate bill, and the previously adopted House version, so Plum Island can finally attain the protective status it so richly deserves," he concluded.
The State Offices of Audubon Connecticut and New York “applaud Senators Blumenthal, Gillibrand, and Murphy for their commitment to protecting Plum Island, a key breeding and stopover site for thousands of at-risk and priority species. Preventing the sale of Plum Island is ‘a national issue’ that will set the stage for how ecologically sensitive areas in federal ownership will be handled moving forward. We encourage more Senators to join their colleagues in supporting this measure and working together so the island is finally protected.”
“Aside from its extraordinary wildlife, Plum Island’s range of natural communities makes it one of the 10 – 12 most diverse areas for rare plant life in New York,” noted David Sutherland, Director of Government Relations for The Nature Conservancy’s Connecticut Chapter. “It is home to 266 native plant species, including 16 listed as Threatened or Endangered in New York.”
“Selling Plum Island would be a calamitous missed opportunity. Plum Island is a veritable treasure trove of rare plants and wildlife. It is a rare ecological gem in the Long Island Sound. The only way to truly ensure preservation is to repeal the federal mandate to sell the Island,” said Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director at Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “We applaud Senators Gillibrand, Blumenthal, and Murphy for their leadership in protecting one of the last undeveloped Islands in the Sound.”
“We applaud the environmental leadership of our Connecticut and New York Senators in moving to put a full stop on plans to sell Plum Island to the highest bidder. If successful, this legislation will not only protect one of the nation’s most precious natural assets but reaffirm the tremendous value of bi-state Congressional partnership when it comes to the future of the Long Island Sound and Peconic Bay Estuaries,” said Bob Deluca, President of the Group for the East End.