There is an 840-acre island sanctuary lying undisturbed just 1.5 miles off the coast of Long Island. The sanctuary is called Plum Island, and it’s currently being threatened by development.
It’s a major habitat for a variety of wildlife such as osprey, bank swallow, and piping plover – to name a few – as well as dozens of native plants. Because of the fact that a federal research facility used a small part of the island, Plum Island has remained untouched by development – until now.
The research facility (National Bio and Agro-defense Facility – NBAF) is relocating, and “the federal government is prepared to sell the island to the highest bidder,” according to Connecticut Fund for the Environment and Save the Sound. The research facility “needs” the money from the sale in order to fund the facilities’ relocation to Manhattan, Kansas. As a result, “this rare island is at risk of intensive private development that could ruin wildlife habitats, pollute the Sound, and preclude future public access.”
Why is Plum Island important?
Island habitats, like Plum Island, are a rare and treasured thing. Islands account for less than a quarter of the earth’s total land area, but comprise 30% of the world’s biodiversity hotspots, 50% of marine tropical diversity, and some of the most rare and unusual species in the world, according to a World Conservation Congress report of 2008.
Plum Island, specifically, is home to the endangered Roseate Tern and threatened Piping Plover. It also contains the largest winter haul out site for marine pinnipeds in southern New England, involving several hundred harbor and grey seals that utilize the rocky coastline of the island’s east end.
There are cultural and historic treasures there as well. The Plum Island Lighthouse warns mariners of the dangers of the rocky shores. And Fort Terry – a fort built for the Spanish-American War – provides remains of several extant batteries as well as a toy gauge railroad system used to move armaments to these batteries.
Additionally, Plum Island itself has received some important designations by federal, state and local organizations:
- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service named it a “Critical Natural Resource Area.”
- New York Department of State calls it a “Coastal Significant Fish and Wildlife Habitat.”
- Audubon New York: “Important Bird Area”
- Suffolk County, New York: “Peconic Bay Environs Critical Environmental Area.”
- Long Island Sound Study: “Environmental Stewardship Area.”
What’s the alternative to development?
There are currently 33 valuable sites around Long Island Sound that make up the Sound’s wildlife refuge system. Plum Island could become part of that network of islands, especially since several organizations agree it deserves protecting. Once the island is protected, trails and such could be created around and through the island in order for the public to enjoy one of the Sound’s last great places. The ultimate goal is to turn “Plum Island” into “Plum Island National Wildlife Refuge.”
How can I help?
On April 18, Congressman Lee Zeldin announced that he has re-introduced legislation to protect Plum Island. “I have always supported keeping Plum Island open on Long Island and am fighting hard in Congress to do just that,” stated Zeldin. You can show your support for this effort in at least two ways:
- For those who live in either New York or Connecticut, you can go here to send a letter to your Congressional officials.
- For everyone – no matter where you live – you can go to the Preserve Plum Island Facebook page. Show your support for everything they are fighting for, and share their stories in order to get the word out. And Like them too, so you can stay informed of all that’s happening. They even periodically post petitions that you can sign.
Once Plum Island becomes an official wildlife refuge, you can plan your no-impact visit to a place you know you helped to protect.
Amanda Carlucci has her finger on the pulse of the green movement. Stay up to date on the latest in green activism. You CAN make a difference. Be a part of the movement, and click here to subscribe. It’s anonymous and free!