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Plum Island National Monument

Thu, 03/23/2023 - 10:29


From here, it is difficult to understand what the holdup has been on saving Plum Island. Time and again, members of both houses of Congress, local, county, and state officials, citizens groups, and environmental organizations have pleaded that a federal mandate to sell the island to the highest bidder be reversed. Representative Nick LaLota, the freshman Republican whose district includes Plum Island, is the latest to propose legislation that would ask that it be designated a national monument. Making it happen, however, will come down to President Joe Biden, and in that, there is perhaps more than a glimmer of hope.

Mr. Biden, with a vacation house near Rehoboth, Del., is a beach guy, unlike so many of the past presidents, at least since Richard Nixon. Nixon’s “Western White House” was on the ocean at San Clemente in California, overlooking Cotton’s Point, where the president and his security team could keep an eye on the surfers. During Nixon’s time, the animal disease laboratory on Plum Island was supposedly used for biowarfare research, though that was never confirmed. According to the official line, the scientists there worked solely on foreign animal contagions that, if loosed on the mainland United States could devastate  cows, sheep, pigs, deer, and goats, among many others.

The animal disease lab is to close this year and be replaced by one in Kansas.

Over the years, there has been interest in putting a resort there; the Trump Organization once inquired if Southold Town zoning would allow for “a really beautiful world-class golf course.” But, in a twist, when Mr. Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES, Act in 2020, he also okayed a provision that blocked the island’s sale. Its fate still hangs in limbo, however.

All it would take now is for Mr. Biden to declare it a national monument. Earlier this month, he did just that in establishing the Avi Kwa Ame National Monument in the Mojave Desert in Nevada. Permanently protecting the island, with its ecological, historical, and cultural significance, should be brought to the beach-loving president’s attention as soon as possible. Plum Island National Monument has a nice ring to it.

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