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Push continues for Plum Island to be declared a national monument

Plum Island Lighthouse - Robert Lorenz.jpg
Robert Lorenz
Photograph courtesy of Save the Sound
The Plum Island lighthouse has stood for more than 150 years.

For over a decade, environmental advocates like Save the Sound have pushed for the preservation of the small island that resides seven miles off the coast of Connecticut. Now advocates for preserving the federally owned Plum Island are continuing to press President Joe Biden to declare it a national monument.

Those efforts have ramped up this summer, said Louise Harrison, the New York natural areas coordinator for Save the Sound.

She emphasized that a presidential declaration would help ensure the island’s future.

“If the proclamation says, ‘I hereby proclaim Plum Island a national monument for the purposes of ecological conservation, historical preservation and the discovery and celebration of our shared cultural heritage,’ then the management plan will follow those items,” Harrison said.

A provision of the Antiquities Act outlines how a president can preserve land in this manner.

U.S. Sens.Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, Connecticut Democrats, are among the lawmakers who signed a letter to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland in April pushing for a national monument designation.

“Protecting Plum Island is squarely within the goals outlined in the Biden administration’s ‘America the Beautiful Initiative,’ including supporting locally-led conservation efforts and protecting biodiversity and historic and cultural resources,” the letter reads.

Pressure from lawmakers comes after the federal government took the island off the auction block in 2020, in part due to grassroots advocacy over concern that the area would be developed once purchased.

But Harrison noted that a major stake in protecting Plum Island is that it has over 100 species of conservation concern.

“And they need protection, they need protection from future human impact as well as from invasive species,” Harrison said. “So the stewardship of Plum Island is key.”

The island also includes sites that are significant to Indigenous culture, she added.

Harrison said that the group is continuing to collect support from citizens and lawmakers alike, but while they’re urging for this designation, other options are on the table.

“But if the Department of Interior feels that Plum Island ought to be, let's say, just a wildlife refuge, we'll take it,” she said. “We want protection for Plum Island.”

Michayla Savitt is a summer 2022 newsroom intern at Connecticut Public, and covers environment and health issues. When she’s not on the air, Michayla is finishing up her graduate degree at the CUNY School of Journalism, exploring New York City, and hanging out with her toothless cat.
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