The primary mission of the Great South Bay Audubon Society is to advocate for the conservation of habitats for native birds and other native wildlife on Long Island.
Located less than a mile from Orient Point, the tip of Long Island’s North Fork, lies this 840 acre island.
Most famously, the island houses the Plum Island Animal Disease Center. What is lesser known is that the approximately 90% of Plum Island that is undeveloped not only holds remarkable ecological and scenic sites, it also holds nationally-significant artifacts and historic buildings, including the 1870 Plum Gut Lighthouse and the 1897 Fort Terry army barracks and weapons batteries.
An ecological gem, Plum Island is home to federally threatened and NYS endangered piping plovers, along with approximately 190 other bird species that utilize the island for breeding or migratory purposes. In addition, it is the most significant seal haul-out site in southern New England, playing host to up to several hundred grey and harbor seals each winter. Forty rare and protected plant species round out the treasure trove of ecological abundance that this island possesses.
Now, Plum Island's rich wildlife habitat is in danger of being sold to developers. In 2008, Congress approved sale of the island to a private party, with plans to move the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility to another state.
Recently, Congressman Tim Bishop introduced "Save, Don't Sell Plum Island" legislation in the House of Representatives, along with companion legislation which was introduced in the Senate by Senator Richard Blumenthal. These bipartisan bills are aimed at protecting the Island's tremendous biodiversity and ecological value. Future development of Plum Island would be prevented by the elimination of the current requirement to sell the island at public auction.
The value of this Island cannot be overstated. On August 8th, a Suffolk Times article highlighted the prehistoric significance of Plum Island. It describes the 1879 discovery of mammoth bones on the Island, which was only referenced by a single sentence in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement that does not give due credit to this remarkable revelation. In fact, it shows that the impact statement lacks critical information to fully consider the effects of the potential sale of Plum Island.
Please ask your federal representatives to join with Congressman Tim Bishop, Congressman Peter King, and Senators Gillibrand and Blumenthal in supporting the "Save Don't Sell Plum Island" legislation to decouple the sale of Plum Island from the construction of the new Kansas facility.
Plum Island itself is in the Town of Southold. Because it is currently federal property, it has no local zoning restrictions. However, when it leaves federal hands it will revert to Southold Town property. This allows Southold to zone Plum Island to ensure that fragile habitats are protected from future development. Town officials recognize the environmental and recreational importance of Plum Island and are proposing zoning districts on the island.
Specifically, the town is proposing the creation of a:
The Preserve Plum Island Coalition supports the proposed plan with some changes, specifically the expansion pf 35 acres to the PIC, including the area in and around the lighthouse.
In addition, we are also asking that the use of solar panels be prohibited in the PIC. As written in the proposal, up to 120 acres of vegetation would be destroyed for this purpose. The Coalition feels that this is in direct conflict with the purpose of the conservation district, "to preserve the integrity of the regionally significant natural, scenic and historic resources of Plum Island."
Members of the coalition attended the Town Hall hearing on May 7th to make our concerns known.