Preserve Plum Island - Fighting to preserve 843 acres of wildlife habitat from development

Proposal of the Preserve Plum Island Coalition

In response to the proposed sale of Plum Island a number of conservation, environmental, and civic organizations have come together to form the “Preserve Plum Island Coalition” for the common purpose of protecting Plum Island (a list of Coalition members is included in Appendix V of the statement). While coalition members are aware of the numerous options and strategies available to safeguard the island’s resources (e.g. a state park) the Coalition strongly endorses the idea that all or a significant majority of the island be protected as a National Wildlife Refuge, administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Following are several additional reasons why Coalition members support the idea of establishing a Plum Island National Wildlife Refuge:

Consistency with Other Refuges

Over the past three decades the federal government has established numerous National Wildlife Refuges in the eastern Peconic/southern New England region. These include, for example, Nomans National Wildlife Refuge, approximately three miles south of Martha’s Vineyard; Block Island National Wildlife Refuge in the northern end of the island; Sachuest Point, John H. Chafee, Trustoms Pond, and Ninigret National Wildlife Refuges in coastal Rhode Island, the 10 units of the Stuart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge stretching along the Connecticut coastline; and the Elizabeth Morton National Wildlife Refuge in Sag Harbor, NY. Many of these refuges are very similar to Plum Island in terms of their species and community composition and were once properties held by the federal government to fulfill other governmental purposes. In our judgment the natural resources and environmental values of Plum Island are every bit the equal of these other places which were affirmatively protected by an Act of Congress. Indeed, it is noteworthy that many of the Refuges were declared surplus by the federal government, but rather than being sold to the private sector, were instead transferred to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to preserve the valuable natural resources contained therein.

Role of Federal Government in Open Space Protection on Long Island

The preservation of open space and establishment of public parkland has been the signature conservation achievement by various Long Island governments. Seven Suffolk towns have collectively spent nearly $400 million to preserve open space while Suffolk County has committed at least that much, together preserving tens of thousands of acres. New York State has committed over $100 million over the past two decades in acquiring key open space parcels. Despite this remarkable, indeed unprecedented, commitment by New York State and local governments on Long Island, the federal government’s role in land protection has been unfortunately inconsequential. Preserving Plum Island by designating all or a significant majority as a National Wildlife Refuge would be a meaningful demonstration of the federal government’s commitment to protecting key open spaces in the New York metropolitan area.

Economic Benefits

As several studies by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have shown, refuges can be very popular sites for public visitation, thereby helping to underpin local economies, both by permitting certain extractive activities as well as promoting ecotourism. We believe that a “Plum Island National Wildlife Refuge” in which the public gains access to explore the island, orient themselves and learn about the island at a visitor center, visit the lighthouse and the remains of Fort Terry, enjoy the unparalleled scenic views and wildlife viewingopportunities, all the while hiking on the island’s numerous trails would help achieve this desirable economic goal.

Conclusion

The Preserve Plum Island Coalition is deeply concerned about the passage of the federal law that will result in the sale of Plum Island and the loss of the numerous values described above. We strongly believe the island should remain an asset of the federal government and be made available for appropriate public use and enjoyment by becoming a unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System, a course of action consistent with safeguarding the island’s sensitive wildlife and ecological value.

The Coalition calls on members of the New York State Congressional delegation to introduce legislation to reverse the proposed disposition and move to permanently protect all or a significant majority of the island by establishing the Plum Island National Wildlife Refuge, an action entirely consistent with past Congressional actions regarding other federal properties declared surplus and afforded permanent protection.

Preserve Plum Island Coalition - 107A Convent Road - Syosset, NY 11791 -