USDA’s Plum Island research complex spared from sale

Perhaps you’re familiar with the USDA’s sprawling, mysterious research complex on Plum Island from our article last year, discussing how researchers there were frantically preparing for the “porkpocalypse,” aka African Swine Flu (remember that virus?). This research facility has long been slated to be shut down, with USDA’s virus research facilities to be moved to a highly secure complex in Manhattan, Kansas. But in the Covid-19 spending bill approved this week, Plum Island got spared from the auction block, in a move that James Bennet at The Washington Post characterizes as Congress working “in confounding ways.” The move is being hailed by conservationists, who argue that the remote island has become a de facto nature sanctuary due to its lack of development over the decades. The backroom workings of the deal aren’t clearly understood yet, but the federally owned property may now end up with another agency like Fish and Wildlife Service. “It’s been very recent and very hectic and very delightful,” said one local environmental activist.

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