Oversight Hearing on Current Natural Resource Research Efforts and the Future of America’s Land- Grant Colleges and Universities
Congressman McClintock is the Chairman of the Federal Lands Subcommittee. The subcommittee held a legislative hearing on April 20, 2016 on Natural Resource Research Efforts and the Future of America's Land-Grant Colleges and Universities. Congressman McClintock delivered the following opening statement:
Oversight Hearing on Exploring Current Natural Resource Research Efforts and the Future of America’s Land- Grant Colleges and Universities
Opening Statement of Chairman Tom McClintock
House Committee on Natural Resources
Subcommitee on Federal Lands
April 20, 2016
Today the Subcommittee on Federal Lands meets to hear testimony on the ongoing research initiatives conducted by America’s land-grant colleges and universities. We will hear from representatives of four of these institutions about their research and explore how better to assist them in their 154-year quest to advance the practical sciences of mechanics, engineering and agriculture and to disseminate that knowledge far and wide across the nation.
Congress established these Land Grant Universities through the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890, and since then they have served as a critical – and indeed a seminal – component of America’s higher education system.
Their original funding came from the federal lands and their mission was then, as it is now, to advance knowledge with a special focus on natural resources. Specifically, the Morrill Acts granted federally-owned land to states and allowed them to sell those lands and use the revenue to establish and endow Land Grant Universities in every state in the nation. Today, over 100 Land Grant Universities operate in all 50 states, four territories and the District of Columbia.
These institutions undertake some of our nation’s most critical and ground-breaking scientific research on a host of natural resource areas, including agriculture, ranching, recreation, conservation, mining, forestry, grazing, and energy development. They are responsible for scientific breakthroughs on some of the most pressing natural resource issues this subcommittee must deal with, including preservation of habitat, wildlife and plant species, the control and eradication of invasive species, the preservation of water supplies and water quality, the preservation of watersheds, the management of fire risk and hazardous fuels management.
The testimony we will hear reveals one troubling aspect of their good work, and that is how little our federal land management agencies utilize their work when it doesn’t meet pre-conceived and pre-determined ideological conclusions. We often hear from federal land officials that they use the best available science, but the testimony today suggests that those agencies often disregard or ignore that science when they find it inconvenient or politically incorrect.
For example, we will hear about a study on targeted livestock grazing practices and its role in alleviating the explosion of cheatgrass and other invasive tree and plant species in the Great Basin. And yet, this good work is disregarded or distorted by federal land management agencies in a manner that threatens both environmental and public safety.
These Land Grant Universities must remain immune from the political manipulation that has plagued so many of our public and private universities. This, in turn, requires reliable funding sources to support the research arm of these institutions. This includes funding and executing independent scientific research, as well as developing and maintaining the facilities and infrastructure that support it.
Due to funding cutbacks and internal competition for financial resources, the core mission of the Land Grant Universities is threatened. The original funding structure provided for reliable and independent financial support, and it needs to be preserved, enhanced and expanded.
Today, we’ll discuss why these funding challenges exist and investigate whether there are alternative funding sources available.
I hope today’s hearing serves as a showcase for the critical research going on in our nation’s Land Grant Universities. I also hope it leads to a dialogue regarding how Congress can support and sustain their efforts in the future and ensure they independently inform our natural resources policy decisions.
I look forward to hearing testimony from our witnesses and now recognize the ranking member for her statement.