112 Newcrest Lane
Oak Ridge, TN
April 13, 2000
William Richardson, Secretary
Dear Secretary Richardson:
I am writing to comment on a March 13th DOE
press release announcing your directive to Deputy Secretary Glauthier to
"lead a review of the real property needs" of DOE facilities, with the
intent of making "long-term recommendations for tailoring real estate needs
to mission requirements." I am writing on behalf of Advocates for the Oak
Ridge Reservation (AFORR) to urge careful consideration of the many values
of DOE's reservation lands during this review.
William Richardson, Secretary
Dear Secretary Richardson:
I am writing to comment on a March 13th DOE press release announcing your directive to Deputy Secretary Glauthier to "lead a review of the real property needs" of DOE facilities, with the intent of making "long-term recommendations for tailoring real estate needs to mission requirements." I am writing on behalf of Advocates for the Oak Ridge Reservation (AFORR) to urge careful consideration of the many values of DOE's reservation lands during this review.
As you know, the reservation lands surrounding DOE's facilities serve many important ends that coincide with the goals spelled out in this year's draft of DOE's Strategic Plan. Among them are:
We are optimistic that DOE will fully consider the importance of buffer zones surrounding facilities and lands where there are classified activities, operations that use radionuclides and hazardous materials, or contamination from past activities. The presence of buffers deserves much of the credit for the fact that the "civilian population" of Oak Ridge has coexisted comfortably with nearby DOE facilities for over half a century. Allowing residential developments and office parks near hazardous sites without security zones would invite trouble.
In evaluating these lands, we think it is vitally important that their science values also be fully considered. Immediately adjacent to most of DOE's national laboratories are key field research sites, currently being used—and with the potential for greater future use—to explore key scientific questions relating to energy use. Among these critical energy topics are global climate change, the effects of air pollutants on our environment, and means of carbon sequestration to counter rising atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. Many research projects on these reservation lands have involved, and continue to involve, significant collaboration with other government agencies (NASA, EPA, TVA, USDA Forest Service, NSF, etc.), and state and private universities, to perform some of the highest quality research in the country on energy-related impacts on the environment. Much of this research would not be possible without the combination of large-scale field research facilities and the variety of natural ecosystems available on DOE Reservation lands, especially its National Environmental Research Park. It would be regrettable to lose unique research opportunities by transferring land holdings that might later be of critical value for energy-related research.
In addition to these land values that coincide directly with DOE's primary strategic goals, we urge you and the agency to consider the unparalleled conservation values of these lands for future generations. We live in an era when our country's open spaces are succumbing to urban and suburban sprawl, our migratory bird species are in a steady decline, and non-native invasive plant species are overrunning our native wildflower and other plant species. We are convinced that the majority of Americans recognize the value of conserving our remaining unique natural resources and open green spaces. As you yourself, Secretary Richardson, so eloquently stated last year when you dedicated the Three Bend Scenic and Wildlife Management Refuge Area, "In places where environmentally unique resources are involved, we have a special responsibility to the states and communities, like yourselves, that have supported us and the future generations,to safeguard those precious places."
The DOE Oak Ridge Reservation is truly such a precious place. Because of the unique history of protection from human development, the 34,500 acres in DOE's Oak Ridge holdings are in fact a huge island of relatively intact forest surrounded by urban, suburban, and agricultural development. Consider a few special characteristics of DOE's Oak Ridge Reservation:
Many other federal agencies have joined in national conservation efforts, and we urge the Department of Energy to step forward and assert itself more aggressively in this movement. Partners in Flight, for example, boasts active participation from virtually all agencies in the federal government with significant land holdings. This includes the Department of Defense, the National Park Service, the U. S. Forest Service, the Natural Resource and Conservation Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Land Reclamation, U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, and numerous state agencies and private organizations.
In recent years a sizeable fraction of the Oak Ridge Reservation has been transferred or otherwise made available for local economic development. Of the remaining 34,500 acres on the Reservation, only approximately 20,000 now remain in the Oak Ridge National Environmental Research Park. Numerous tracts have been made available for development—approximately 5,000 acres in the last 15 years—as the reservation continues to shrink in size. The larger tracts that have been made available include:
We urge you to put an end to the piecemeal dismantling of a unique and irreplaceable national asset. We need your leadership to protect the remaining reservation lands from shortsighted developments that lack a compelling national benefit. Please protect the integrity of the Oak Ridge Reservation for its multiple special values: (1) for scientific research and education, (2) as buffer zones for national security and protecting the population from contamination, (3) for recreation and aesthetic values, (4) for unique conservation values, and not least, (5) for unanticipated national needs of future generations.
J. Devereux Joslin, Jr.
CC: President Clinton