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Plum Island protection bill passed by House

May 16, 2016
In The News

A bill sponsored by Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) to prevent the sale of Plum Island by the federal government passed in a unanimous House vote late Monday afternoon.

Zeldin predicted the passage Monday morning during a news conference at the Milton L. Burns Park in Riverhead.

The House Homeland Security Committee unanimously passed a bill on April 28 to prevent the sale of the island — situated at the gateway of Long Island Sound in Southold — while possible future uses are studied.

Zeldin (R-Shirley) said at the time that he expected HR 1887 to come to the House floor for a vote this year.

The bill, originally introduced last year, but amended at the end of last month, would reverse a 2008 federal law mandating the sale of the federally owned island to the highest bidder.

“Plum Island is truly a natural, cultural and historical treasure that has been cherished by our local community since before the 1700s, which is why protecting this critical land is so important,” Zeldin said during the news conference.

Southold Town officials’ decision to rezone the island was key to the effort, Zeldin said, and the efforts of many were key to getting the fight for Plum Island to this point. He thanked House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, House Homeland Security chairman Michael McCaul and environmentalists and citizens’ groups for their support.

“It’s an amazing part of the fabric of Long Island life,” Zeldin said. He added the legislation will next be sent to the Senate for a vote.

“Plum Island is a jewel and a national treasure,” Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell said in a prepared statement following the news conference, which he was unable to attend. “The federal government’s plan to see it off to the highest bidder is ill-conceived and shortsighted.”

As he waited for the news conference to begin, John Turner, a spokesman for the Preserve Plum Island Coalition, called Plum Island “Treasure Island” because it is home to so many important animals, birds and plants.

“This day means a lot,” Turner said. “Any naturalist will call it ‘Treasure Island.’ Plum Island is such an important part of Long Island’s culture and history. There are 220 species of birds there and hundreds of seals. It’s a habitat for endangered species.”