Planning council supports preservation of Plum Island
The Long Island Regional Planning Council voted Thursday to support efforts to preserve Plum Island, where the federal government plans to close its animal disease research center.
Members of the planning council heard a presentation from the Preserve Plum Island Coalition, which is made up of more than 118 national, regional, and local organizations with interests in conservation, historic preservation, and cultural heritage. Following that presentation, the planning council voted to send a formal letter of support to Gov. Kathy Hochul asking her to indicate the state’s support to the federal government and asking that the 822-acre island be named as a national monument or be established as a permanent federal preserve.
The federal government is planning to relocate the animal disease research center from Plum Island to a $1.25 billion facility on the campus of Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas.
“Preserving Plum Island represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to permanently protect a significant natural and historic resource sitting right off our eastern shore,” LIRPC Chairman John Cameron said in a written statement. “Now the challenge remains to find the best way to permanently preserve the island, which is steeped in America’s culture and history, and unique in its natural resources, and as the region’s leading planning body representing Suffolk and Nassau counties, we strongly support the PPIC’s continued efforts.”
Over the last decade, Plum Island could have been sold to private developers, but the PPIC successfully lobbied Congress in late 2020 not to auction off the island to the highest bidder, as was previously planned. Located at the eastern end of Long Island Sound, Plum Island is home to lands traditionally used by Indigenous nations; a decommissioned Army post; and more than 500 plant and animal species, according to the coalition.
Under the federal disposition process, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has already issued a draft Report of Excess to the General Services Administration. Once the draft report becomes final, GSA will offer the property to all other federal agencies which will have 30 days to indicate their interest to begin planning and discussion for transfer. If no federal agency shows interest, the property would be offered to New York State and then to other adjoining municipalities.
“We’ve learned there is broad consensus for environmental conservation, historic preservation, and discovery and celebration of shared cultural heritage on Plum Island, with sustainable, managed public access,” Louise Harrison, New York Natural Areas Coordinator for Save the Sound, which leads the PPIC, said in the statement. “People from all sectors promoted the repeal of Plum Island’s sale, and in December 2020 our congressional champions delivered the island from a disastrous fate on the auction block. Now we rally once more to transfer Plum Island from the Department of Homeland Security to an agency that will carry out the region’s vision. We’re calling on our elected leaders to recognize this nationally significant asset off the East End of Long Island as an essential element of America the Beautiful and add it to the nation’s permanent inventory of natural treasures. Having the LIRPC’s support is essential to our efforts.”