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Stop Plum Island sale, LI lawmakers ask federal officials

The Plum Island Animal Disease Center is shown

The Plum Island Animal Disease Center is shown in this undated photo provided by the Agricultural Research Service of the Department of Agriculture. Photo Credit: AP

All of Long Island's state lawmakers have asked federal officials to stop the sale of Plum Island and turn it into a national wildlife refuge because of its natural, historic and cultural significance.

The letters sent by the legislators to senators Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Senate's environmental committee, and Charles Schumer mark the latest step in a growing campaign to preserve Plum Island instead of selling it to offset the $1.2 billion cost of the Bio and Agro-Defense Facility in Kansas.

The 840 acres, home to some endangered and threatened species as well as a federal research facility, are located in a remote, unique spot, the June 18 letter said.

"With Plum Island's existing network of trails . . . and location off the North Fork at the point where the Peconic Estuary, Long Island Sound and Atlantic Ocean meet, the Island provides unparalleled opportunities for passive recreational activities such as bird watching, hiking and viewing the scenic landscapes of the East End," the lawmakers wrote.

This comes after Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) this year reintroduced a bill that would reverse the federal government's planned sale of Plum Island, which Congress approved in 2008.

In January, environmental groups threatened to sue the federal government if plans to sell the land do not contain building restrictions protecting wildlife.

In the letters, Long Island's lawmakers note that the property's market value has been slashed by Southold Town's rezoning move to bar residential and other development, while high decommissioning costs for Plum Island's research facility will eat away profits.

The island is a home or destination to 218 bird species and one of the largest seal populations in the multistate region, the lawmakers said.Less than 15 percent of the land has been built upon, including the Plum Island Lighthouse, a National Historic Landmark; and Fort Terry, built for the Spanish-American War.


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