By Gregory B. Hladky
1:11 PM EDT, August 6, 2013
When you have what's become a de facto nature preserve barely 12 miles off Connecticut's Long Island shoreline, it's not much of a surprise that environmentalists in this state are pushing hard to keep the federal government from selling it to the highest bidder.
The feds General Services Administration (as expected) recently recommended that Plum Island be sold to help pay for a very, very expensive new animal disease research lab scheduled to be built in Kansas.
Connecticut's Save the Sound group has joined with something like 30 other organizations to urge the feds not to simply sell the 840-acre island. "Protecting Plum Island is vital to the health of Long Island Sound and the region's wildlife," according to Leah Schmalz, a top Save the Sound official.
Members of Congress from Connecticut and New York have introduced legislation to prevent the sale, but that seems like a long shot in our gridlocked national capitol.
The existance of the current high-security and rather secretive research facility is the reason the island has become such a wildlife preserve. Except for the facility's staff and security folks, the island has been off limits for decades. Since the lab building only take up a fairly small portion of the property, the rest has become a haven for hard-pressed native Long Island Sound species like piping plovers, roseate and common terns, plus dozens of other types of birds.
Plum Island its just off Long Island's North Fork and its future status has become a big issue for environmentalists, federal budget cutters and the people of Southold, the New York township that will take jurisdiction over the island once it passes from federal control.
Southold is planning to restrict development on the island, fearing a mass building boom would result in lots of new traffic and all sorts of sewage, traffic and infrastructure hassles.
Environmentalist types want to cut out all possibility of commercial development by having the island incorporated into the federal wildlife refuge system.
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