Plum Island Lawsuit

Location: Orient Point, New York | Status: Active

Summary: Save the Sound has engaged in a decade long campaign to permanently preserve this ecological treasure off the shore of Eastern Long Island. The approximately 90% of Plum Island that is undeveloped is an ecological gem. It is home to federally threatened, and state endangered, piping plovers, along with approximately 190 other bird species that utilize the island for breeding or migratory purposes. In addition, it is the most significant seal haul-out site in southern New England, playing host to up to several hundred grey and harbor seals each winter. When the federal government sought to sell the island to the highest bidder, and to ignore standard procedures for considering conservation options, Save the Sound sued in federal court to block the sale until all conservation options were evaluated and, if appropriate, pursued. After a judge ruled in our favor on a motion to dismiss, the federal government agreed to do a more thorough environmental impact and we stayed the case to see how that process turned out. It is still pending, however, as the government had not agreed to all the measures we were seeking. In December 2020, in a huge legislative victory, Congress repealed the law requiring the sale of the island, making clear that conservation had to be considered and pursued in appropriate circumstances. We are now working with New York State or another appropriate purchaser to purchase the island for conservation. However, our lawsuit is still pending and ready to be re-activated in case the federal government fails to follow through.

Latest Step: Case is stayed pending outcome of the disposition process. In the meantime, Save the Sound has remained involved in the various ongoing National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) processes related to the closure of the Plum Island Animal Disease Center (PIADC). Save the Sound staff and additional members of the Preserve Plum Island Coalition joined the Long Island Sound Study’s Citizens Advisory Committee in October 2023 to meet with senators, representatives, and legislative staffers on the topic of Plum Island preservation. In particular, the PPIC seeks co-sponsors for H.R. 1584, the Plum Island National Monument Act, which has bipartisan support. Our own staff meet regularly with staffers for the four United States senators from New York and Connecticut, who are coordinating conversations with high-level officials in the Administration.

Next Step: We will continue to monitor and participate in the NEPA processes for the closure of the PIADC. If the federal government fails to pursue appropriate conservation outcomes, in the disposition process, we will seek to re-activate the stayed case. 

Further Reading:

  1. Learn more about the campaign to save Plum Island
  2. PRESS RELEASE: Momentum for Plum Island preservation grows as Rep. LaLota introduces National Monument legislation
  3. PRESS RELEASE: Plum Island one step closer to permanent preservation, thanks to federal omnibus legislation
  4. PRESS RELEASE: Senator Blumenthal Urges President to Preserve Plum Island
  5. PRESS RELEASE: Suffolk County Legislature United in Asking President to Preserve Plum Island
  6. BLOGPOST: Plum Island scientific dive report catalogs 126 species of flora and fauna, “a surprising diversity of life”

Action Opportunities:

Last Updated: November 24, 2023

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