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Environmentalists fret about Plum Island's future

Researchers since the 1950s have studied dangerous animal diseases here that if unleashed could imperil the nation's livestock. Cold War germ warfare testing also occurred on Plum Island, and for decades the U.S. Army used it as a coastal defense post.

Nevertheless, many environmentalists characterize Plum Island as a "remarkable gem" and "exemplary site for fish and wildlife" when describing its attributes.

The federal government wants to relocate the animal disease lab to Kansas and is proceeding with plans to sell the isolated, 840-acre pork chop-shaped island off the eastern tip of Long Island, a move that has some environmentalists fretting about Plum Island's future.

On Wednesday, more than two dozen environmentalists and civic leaders were taking part in a daylong tour of Plum Island. It's sort of a real estate "open house," in which they will get a rare public glimpse of operations at the lab, as well as visit remote parts that are home to endangered bird species and other wildlife.

"We'd like to see a continuation of the research and development in some form, coupled with a more formalized protection of the rest of the island as a national wildlife refuge," Randy Parsons, policy adviser for the Nature Conservancy, said as the environmentalists gathered for remarks in an auditorium and a tour in an old green bus along winding roads through lush landscape.

Some of them also lined up to buy $12 souvenir T-shirts ā€” offered in pink, blue, brown or yellow, and bearing an outline of Plum Island.
 
 

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