Congressman Tom Suozzi (D—Glen Cove) announced the official renaming of the Oyster Bay National Wildlife Refuge to the Congressman Lester Wolff National Wildlife Refuge. Congressman Lester Wolff, who recently celebrated his 101st birthday, is the oldest living former member of Congress and was instrumental in the creation of the federal refuge in 1968.
“The Long Island Sound is our national park and it is important to recognize one of the early champions of its protection and revitalization,” Suozzi said. “Without Congressman Wolff’s tireless effort and willingness to stand up to powerful interests, the [Long Island] Sound would be very different today. Renaming the refuge will honor his significant contributions, and hopefully, inform and inspire others to carry on the important work of protecting the environment.”
The renaming of the wildlife refuge is a result of a bipartisan bill, led by Suozzi in the House and Senator Chuck Schumer in the Senate, and was signed into law by the president last week. The bill passed both the House and the Senate last year with overwhelming support.
“Renaming the Oyster Bay Wildlife Refuge after Congressman Lester Wolff is a fitting tribute to a life dedicated to public service,” Schumer said. “Lester’s tireless advocacy for Long Island deserves to be commemorated and I can think of no better tribute than naming this ecological treasure in his honor.”
Suozzi and Wolff were joined at the press conference by Bayville Mayor Robert Denatale and members of Friends of the Bay, whose mission is to preserve, protect and restore the Oyster Bay/Cold Spring Harbor Estuary and the surrounding watershed. The press conference was held at the Mill River Rod and Gun in Bayville, which overlooks the Congressman Lester Wolff National Wildlife Refuge.
“Thank you to Tom Suozzi for all his hard work and leadership in memorializing my efforts to protect this vital natural resource,” Wolf said. “To have encouraged and fostered bipartisan passage of the bill to rename this wildlife refuge was a testimony to how the Congress can get together in legislating and I applaud Tom’s efforts. Today brings back great memories of working together with many people to prevent these areas from being despoiled. I am encouraged to see so many young people concerned about our climate and our environment and I am proud to pass the torch on to them.”
In the late sixties, Congressman Wolff spearheaded the effort to block the Oyster Bay-Rye bridge. He overcame powerful opposition from both Roberts Moses, the famed New York planner, and Governor Nelson Rockefeller. Were it not for his tireless advocacy, the 8.5-mile bridge would have been built across Long Island Sound. The Congressman recognized that the bridge would despoil the Long Island Sound and fought to preserve the space. The success was a critical turning point in our environmental history.
The refuge is located on the north shore of Long Island and is the largest refuge in the Long Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex. Covering 3,209 acres, the refuge includes subtidal habitats, a salt marsh, and a freshwater pond. The refuge is home to a wide variety of animal life and is especially important for wintering waterfowl.
Wolff served in Congress from 1964-81, where he served as the chairman of the Asian and Pacific Affairs Committee and the Select Committee on Narcotics Abuse and Control. He served in the Civil Air Patrol during World War II and commanded the Congressional Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol, rising to the rank of Colonel. In 2014, Wolff received the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian award.
—Submitted by the office of Congressman Tom Suozzi