Congress Blocks Sale of Plum Island in Covid-19 Relief Bill

plum island
The Department of Homeland Security’s Plum Island Animal Disease Center is pictured during a tour by journalists Feb. 16, 2004. (Henny Ray Abrams HRA/JDP/Reuters)

Plum Island off the coast of the North Fork will no longer be auctioned after federal lawmakers added a provision in the Covid-19 aid bill that protects the island from being sold.

The bill blocks the planned sale of Plum Island, a former federal research facility off the eastern tip of Long Island that had been due to be sold. Environmentalists have opposed the sale of the island, which is considered a prime wildlife habitat.

“It would have been a grave mistake to sell and develop Plum Island’s 840-acres of habitat, which is home to many endangered species,” U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) said in a statement. “That’s why preventing the unnecessary sale requirement was a top priority of these negotiations. Now the people of Long Island will have their say in its future — and rightfully so.” 

Plum Island has been home to the Plum Island Animal Disease Center since the 1950s. However, the laboratory, which conducts advanced research on contagious diseases in animals, is set to move to Kansas in 2023, leaving Plum Island’s future in limbo.

The island is also home to rare wildlife species, including about 227 bird species, according to the Nature Conservancy. It is also a historic site, originally Algonquin territory and home to a 19th-century lighthouse and Army post from 1897.

“The Nature Conservancy is proud to have worked closely with members of Congress from across the country and diverse partners to save Plum Island,” Bill Ulfelder, The Nature Conservancy’s New York executive director, said in a statement. “Historically Algonquin territory, the fate of Plum Island was caught in a bureaucratic quagmire for 12 years, but one thing was always clear: the tremendous support for conserving this extraordinary place with a fascinating history.”

Plum Island was slated for sale since 2008. Since then, Preserve Plum Island Coalition, a group of more than 100 historic and nature conservation organizations, formed a campaign to protect it, along with a comprehensive plan for its future that gained bipartisan support.

-With Reuters

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