Conservationists Vow to Fight Sale of Plum Island

Jan 21, 2015
Originally published on January 20, 2015 11:33 am

Plum Island, an 840-acre land mass in Long Island Sound, is becoming a focal point for environmentalists. That's because of government plans to sell the island to fund the construction of a new USDA animal-testing center. 

For decades, Plum Island hosted an animal testing center. The government now wants to sell it -- and the land around it -- because of a mandate from Congress requiring the sale of Plum Island to help fund the construction of a new USDA animal-testing center in Kansas.

At stake is what will happen to the 600-or-so acres of land that's not the research lab, which conservationists say is home to a variety of migrating birds and rare plants.

"I have to say, I was blown away the first time I set foot on Plum Island," said Leah Schmalz, a lawyer with Save the Sound, an environmental advocacy organization. "Setting foot on the island and being taken around and just seeing the vistas -- being able to see the Connecticut shoreline from this island. Being able to see all those forests. It really is a magical place."

Earlier this month, Schmalz's group filed notice that they intend to sue the government. Schmalz said it violated the Endangered Species Act, and didn't adequately assess the environmental impacts of a sale.

"One of the things we've all been saying is that language that Congress gave you actually gives you a little discretio," Schmalz said. "You don't have to sell off the whole island completely. An unfettered sale, with no conservation options. You have some flexibility."

That flexibility, she said, could include selling part of the developed area and doing a conservation sale of the rest of the island.

The government has 60 days to respond to the notice.


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