Yesterday, Tuesday July 16, Congressman Tim Bishop announced the introduction of his new bill, “Save Don’t Sell Plum Island.” The eastern Long Island representative was joined by a coalition of elected officials and environmental activists in submitting the legislation to the House of Representatives and the Senate. The bill is meant to preserve biodiversity and prevent further development on the island (located in Southold’s Gardiners Bay) by eliminating the current legal requirement that the island be sold at a public auction.
The bill is an attempt to combat the 2008 legislation passed by Congress mandating the public sale of Plum Island. The intended purpose of the sale was to offset the $1.2 billion cost of constructing a new National Bio-and-Agro Defense Facility (NBAF) in Kansas, but Bishop has asserted that Plum Island’s value as a research facility and wildlife conservation outweighs the revenue they might receive from a potential sale. He has consistently fought against funding for NBAF, arguing that the massive new facility is both unaffordable and superfluous given the existence of other research facilities like the Plum Island Animal Disease Research Center.
“Plum Island is one of the natural treasures of the Northeast and my bill would eliminate the wrongheaded requirement that it be sold into private hands for a fraction of its true value to our nation,” Bishop said in defense of his legislation. “If the federal government did not already own Plum Island, it would be seeking to purchase it for conservation as prime habitat for rare birds and plants as well as a research campus ideal for the study of biology and botany, alternative energy development, or other scientific disciplines. Elected officials, environmental advocates, and the entire community speak with one voice in support of my legislation: save, don’t sell Plum Island.”
The legislation already has bipartisan support, with Joe Courtney (D-CT) and Michael Grimm (R-NY) serving as original cosponsors in the House of Representatives. Democratic senator Richard Blumenthal (CT) is also slated to introduce companion legislation to the Senate.
These sponsors joined Bishop in asserting the vital importance of the bill. “Plum Island is a unique ecological resource that should be preserved for future generations,” said Congressman Joe Courtney (D-CT). “Currently, the law prescribes only one fate for Plum Island should the site leave federal ownership: sale to a private owner. I applaud the steps that Southhold, NY and stakeholders on both sides of the Long Island Sound have taken towards preserving the island, but it is clear that Congress must eliminate the sale requirement to allow for other options for its future – including preservation as an ecological treasure. I am proud to join with Congressman Bishop and our colleagues in Connecticut and New York to offer this commonsense proposal today.”
Across the aisle, Republican Michael Grimm echoed his support for the proposal, emphasizing the value of the Island as well as the previous investments that have already been made in the development of its research center. “To sell Plum Island at a fraction of its value for the purpose of real estate development will threaten this natural treasure. In addition, after the federal government has invested millions in the Plum Island Animal Disease Center, the facility’s closure will put millions of taxpayer dollars to waste and put local research jobs at risk. I applaud Congressman Bishop for his leadership to ‘Save, Not Sell’ Plum Island and I am proud to join him in this effort.”
A groundswell of support has begun all across Suffolk County, with legislators and environmentalists from all levels speaking out in solidarity. New York State Senator Ken LaValle, Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski, and various representatives from environmental organizations have all joined together to applaud the introduction of the bill and reiterate the sentiments expressed by Bishop and his sponsors.