In March, Senator Richard Blumenthal announced that the Congressional Appropriations subcommittee on Homeland Security had compelled the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to analyze conservation outcomes for Plum Island. A month later, House Homeland Security Committee approval of the amended version of Congressman Lee Zeldin’s (R-NY) “Don’t Sell Plum Island” bill marks the beginning of a critical second phase on the path toward saving Plum Island.
The bill, passed unanimously by the committee on April 28, would independently review the DHS report, fill in any gaps with a supplemental report completed by the impartial General Accounting Office, and halt all sales activities of Plum Island until this report process is complete.
In his press release, Congressman Zeldin said, “Plum Island is a natural treasure that has been a part of Long Island history since the 1700s. With approximately 90 percent of the land on Plum Island undeveloped, the island is home to a diverse wildlife and ecosystem, and serves as a critical habitat for migratory birds, marine mammals, and rare plants. It’s our responsibility to protect this precious land for future generations, which is why I am proud to have secured the passage of this bill out of committee and to the House floor for a vote.”
U.S. representatives from around the Long Island Sound region welcomed the news.
“As the largest area in southern New England where seals can rest on dry land, a home to two threatened bird species, and a refuge for wildlife and native plans, the environmental importance of Plum Island cannot be overstated,” said Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), who co-chairs the Long Island Sound caucus. “These waters are a national treasure, and we have responsibility to ensure their protection and preservation. The passage of HR 1887 out of committee is the first step to ensuring that we Save, Not Sell, Plum Island.”
“Plum Island is a rare scenic and biological treasure located right off our coast in Long Island Sound,”said Representative Joe Courtney (D-CT), whose eastern Connecticut district is home to many Plum Island employees. “The Island is home to a rich assortment of endangered species and migratory birds, and that’s why I believe we need to do everything we can to preserve it as a natural sanctuary. I have long supported federal legislation to repeal the requirement to sell Plum Island in order to finance a new research center in Kansas. Now that Congress has appropriated separate funding to build that new facility, the sale of Plum Island is no longer necessary and should be scrapped. With legislation to delay that sale now working its way through the House, I believe we are closer than we have ever been to permanently protecting Plum Island.”
Congressman Dan Donovan (R-NY), who submitted the amendment, said on the floor of the House, “This legislation has the bi-partisan support of the members of the Connecticut and New York delegations, and is an essential step in the efforts to preserve Plum Island for future generations for the purposes of conservation, education, and research. This bill is also about local control. The public and lawmakers on both sides of Long Island Sound have spoken out loud and clear that they do not want to see this island sold to private developers.”
Congressman Peter King (R-NY), who represents southern Long Island, also remarked during debate, “I would like to commend Mr. Donovan and Mr. Zeldin for their work on this [bill], and Congresswoman Rice (D-NY) and I are in full agreement—it is important for the people of Long Island and for the entire region.”
“Thousands of citizens in New York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island have stood up for saving Plum Island, each one asking that the federal government protect the island’s endangered birds and historic buildings, and the character of Long Island’s East End,” said Chris Cryder, special projects coordinator for Save the Sound, a bi-state program of Connecticut Fund for the Environment. “Thanks to Congressman Zeldin’s leadership, the efforts of our entire regional congressional delegation, and the support of the Homeland Security committee, these goals are within sight.”
The bill will now move to a full vote of the U.S. House of Representatives.