(Washington, D.C.)—The House Committee on Science and Technology’s Subcommittee on Energy and Environment held a hearing to discuss H.R. 2729, sponsored by Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), which formally authorizes the seven existing National Environmental Research Parks as permanent research reserves. The long-term data sets that have been collected from the Parks are used to understand natural ecosystem development and variability, including how ecosystems respond to climate change and other factors. The hearing also examined other climate and environmental research programs conducted by the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science.
“DOE’s seven National Environmental Research Parks are extraordinary outdoor laboratories that provide opportunities for environmental studies on protected lands around DOE facilities in a variety of geographic and ecological regions,” said Subcommittee Chairman Brian Baird (D-WA). “I am pleased that Mr. Luján’s bill would formally authorize these parks in law and provide the guidance and support they need to support critical work in research, education and public outreach.”
The seven Parks are: Savannah River Research Park (SC); Los Alamos Research Park (NM); Idaho Research Park; Oak Ridge Research Park (TN); Hanford Research Park (WA); Fermilab Research Park (IL); and Nevada Research Park. The land was originally designated as buffer zones around research labs, to ensure security and safety of the nation’s work on nuclear weapons. The protection inadvertently preserved large, intact ecosystems, including undisturbed native vegetation and wildlife, representing the major ecosystems of the U.S.
Although never formally authorized, the Parks were created between 1972 and 1992. Researchers have used the secure settings for valuable, long-term research on a broad range of subjects, including biomass production, environmental remediation, plant succession, population ecology, ecological restoration, and thermal effects on freshwater ecosystems.
“The Parks also provide rich environments for training researchers and introducing the public to ecological sciences,” said Luján. “In a number of cases, these data sets represent the world’s longest, continuous records. For example, the scientists at Los Alamos have the world’s longest running data sets on soil moisture and plant water stress. The 2002 drought that killed off large areas of piñon pine in New Mexico could be understood because of these long-range data sets. This is the type of information we need to anticipate the impacts of severe weather and climate on natural systems and to develop strategies to manage these systems in the face of climate change.”
The hearing also focused on the Climate and Environmental Sciences program within the DOE Office of Science’s Office of Biological and Environmental Research. The program focuses on developing a comprehensive understanding of the fundamental science associated with carbon cycling and climate change and developing monitoring and remediation methods to address the control and clean up of environmental contaminants on DOE facilities.
“DOE’s Climate and Environmental Sciences program conducts important research activities to achieve a full understanding of climate change, ocean acidification, and remediation of environmental contaminants on land and in water,” said Baird.
For more information, please see the Committee website.