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Opinion: Protect Plum Island as a National Wildlife Refuge

Group for the East End reiterates preservation stance on Plum Island.

Group for the East End President, Bob DeLuca, submitted extensive comments to the General Services Administration last week, supporting the protection of the undeveloped portion (80%) of Plum Island as a National Wildlife Refuge and identifying several important considerations in the face of the potential for a private sale.

Though it most famously contains the National Laboratory, Plum Island’s greatest asset is its rich natural resources. With limited natural habitat remaining for rare and threatened wildlife throughout the region, Plum Island provides habitat for many important wildlife species. “Nearly 200 types of birds use the island’s open space for breeding and as a safe stopover during migration,” said DeLuca, “and the island is known as the largest seal haul-out site in New England.”

Protection of the island’s undeveloped lands (about 80% of its 840-acres) would sustain the valuable natural features of the island, while allowing for future public educational and recreational use. In the event of a private sale, these opportunities would be lost and a national treasure that has been in the public domain since the 1800s could be destroyed by development.

Group for the East End’s history with Plum Island spans back to 2004, when DeLuca first visited the island and began advocating for additional public outreach and security at the laboratory. Since that time, significant progress has been made, millions of dollars have been invested in improving safety and security, and public meetings are now scheduled a few times each year to report progress to the wider East End community.

“Abandoning and moving the laboratory at this point, after such a significant recent investment, would be a waste of public funding,” said DeLuca, “not to mention the risk of relocating the study site of the most infectious bovine disease into the heart of cattle country.” (He referred to one of the primary relocation targets for a new laboratory to replace the one on Plum Island – Manhattan, Kansas.)

DeLuca also pointed out the local economic impact of moving the laboratory and selling the island. “The Plum Island Laboratory provides hundreds of jobs to people who live in Eastern Long Island and Connecticut. Closing the laboratory would result in a loss of these viable jobs in our region,” he said. 

— Kate Fullam, Director of Community Outreach, Group for the East End.
631-765-6450, ext. 208 • kfullam@eastendenvironment.org

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