Plum Island Auction Off Table as Congress Repeals Sale Laws

After eight years of advocacy, the path is finally open for permanent protection of this unique place and its critical habitats for endangered wildlife.

ALBANY, NY (December 21, 2020)-- “Bird and nature lovers can breathe a sigh of relief now that the option for Plum Island to be sold at auction is going, going, gone," said Erin McGrath, policy manager with Audubon New York.

"This ecological treasure is a key breeding and stopover site for thousands of birds, including at-risk and priority species like the Roseate Tern and Piping Plover. Losing it to human development would be an unacceptable loss of biodiversity. We applaud Senators Schumer, Murphy, and Blumenthal and Representatives Zeldin, DeLauro, and Courtney, for creating a path toward the future protection of Plum Island and the birds that depend on it.”

The Omnibus Budget bill Congress passed today will save Plum Island from the auction block. The bill restores the normal disposal procedure for federal property instead of auctioning it off to the highest bidder.

Next steps then include ensuring the island is transferred to another federal agency, state, or other body, a process that may take several years.

"Our longtime push to save Plum Island from some ‘high bidder’ or anyone else who might neglect its natural resources, environmental value, our local stakeholders and concerned communities is now realized—Plum Island is saved and its sale is finally off the table,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, Minority Leader (D-NY). “It would have been a grave mistake to sell and develop Plum Island’s 840 acres of habitat, which is home to many endangered species. That’s why preventing the unnecessary sale requirement was a top priority of these negotiations. Now the people of Long Island will have their say in its future—and rightfully so.” 

“It is rare in conservation to get a second chance. All too often, a species becomes irretrievably lost to extinction or a forest is irreparably destroyed by development. But Congress, through repeal of the mandate directing the sale of Plum Island, is giving the island a second chance,” said John Turner, spokesperson for the Preserve Plum Island Coalition. “But this second chance is really a first step. The Coalition calls on all those who care about Plum Island to stand by as we look to the next steps in keeping it forever in public ownership.”

The Preserve Plum Island Coalition (PPIC), an alliance of 116 organizations across New York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, has been fighting to save the island’s rare habitats and cultural resources for a decade. The Coalition has developed a vision for the island’s future and, should Congress take a public auction off the table by passing the bill, will shift its attention to implementing that vision, starting with identifying an appropriate owner for Plum Island that can ensure conservation.

Plum Island, located at the eastern end of Long Island Sound, is home to nationally significant natural and cultural resources including lands traditionally used by Indigenous nations; a historic, decommissioned Army post; and more than 500 plant and animal species, 111 of which are species of conservation concern. For 11 years it has been at risk of being sold to private developers, which would deprive the public of all the island has to offer. Such a sale would also cause irreversible harm to wildlife, including seals and endangered roseate terns; threaten historical buildings; and risk Indigenous and American cultural history.


Audubon New York is a member of the Preserve Plum Island Coalition (PPIC), whose mission is to secure the permanent protection of the significant natural and cultural resources of Plum Island.

An electronic press packet is available for media and includes background documents, maps, video, and photographs of Plum Island.

Audubon New York Press Contact:
Sharon Bruce | 914-263-3083

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