SAVE THE SOUND: GSA RECOMMENDATION TO AUCTION PLUM ISLAND IS DETRIMENTAL TO HEALTH AND HABITATS OF LONG ISLAND SOUND
NEW HAVEN, CT – Save the Sound, a program of Connecticut Fund for the Environment, released the following statement after the General Services Administration (GSA) announced its recommendation to sell Plum Island in its Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). Plum Island is home to over one hundred species of birds, including two federally threatened species of birds, Piping Plovers and Roseate Terns, and Long Island’s largest seal colony. This decision is one that Save the Sound and other environmental organizations have urged against for the past two-and-a-half years.
“GSA’s recommendation that Plum Island be auctioned off to the highest bidder – without conditions that conserve valuable habitat – runs counter to the demonstrated governmental interests in preserving this unique Long Island Sound gem,” said Leah Schmalz, director of legislative and legal affairs for Save the Sound. “For over two years, we have worked with our sister environmental organizations and state and federal agencies to offer data and conservation options that would protect the significant ecological assets of Plum Island.”
“While the DEIS mentions conservation opportunities as a part of its alternatives analysis, it abdicates responsibility for establishing conditions for any sale based on the findings of these alternatives,” Schmalz said. “Instead, it chooses to foist that burden onto New York state and local authorities once a full-scale development is threatened.”
In 2009, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security proposed selling Plum Island in order to relocate the Plum Island Animal Disease Center to Kansas. In 2010, Save the Sound organized a site visit to Plum Island with key allies to view the island first hand and gain a better understanding of the types of natural resources at stake. Additionally, Save the Sound has provided coalition membership opportunities in Connecticut to support efforts being done in New York to protect the island.
The 840-acre Plum Island and adjacent Great Gull and Little Gull Islands were identified for protection in 2006 by the Long Island Sound Stewardship Initiative, which was endorsed by the Long Island Sound Study Management Committee and adopted and signed by the Policy Committee of the Long Island Sound Study, made up of the New York Department of Conservation’s Commissioner, Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection’s then-Commissioner Gina McCarthy, and the EPA Region I and II Administrators. Among the 33 Long Island Sound stewardship sites, the 2006 process identified Plum, Great Gull, and Little Gull Islands as possessing “exemplary” ecological value.
GSA’s Plum Island Draft Environmental Impact Statement can be read on www.plumislandny.com.