Congress Enacts Landmark Legislation to Preserve America's Endangered Battlefields
(Washington, D.C.) - The Civil War Trust today applauded members of U.S. Senate and House of Representatives for enactment of landmark legislation to preserve America's endangered battlefields.
The legislation, part of an omnibus lands package included in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 3979), reauthorizes a highly successful federal matching grant program for the preservation of Civil War battlefields. In addition, the bill expands that existing program to provide grants for the acquisition of land at Revolutionary War and War of 1812 battlefields.
"This is a historic moment for the battlefield preservation movement," remarked Civil War Trust president James Lighthizer. "For 15 years, the Civil War Battlefield Preservation Program has been an invaluable tool for protecting the hallowed battlegrounds of the Civil War. Now, for the first time, battlefields associated with America's other formative conflicts, the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, will also benefit from this public-private partnership."
The legislation, originally introduced in 2013 as the American Battlefields Protection Program Amendments Act (H.R. 1033), reauthorizes the Civil War Battlefield Preservation Program, a matching grants program that encourages private sector investment in historic battlefield protection. Since the program was first funded by Congress in FY 1999, it has been used to preserve more than 23,000 acres of battlefield land in 17 states. The battlefields protected through the program include some of the most famous in the annals of America, including Antietam, Md., Chancellorsville and Manassas, Va.; Chattanooga and Franklin, Tenn.; Gettysburg, Pa.; Perryville, Ky.; and Vicksburg, Miss.
The bipartisan bill was sponsored by U.S. Senators Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and Congressmen Rush Holt (D-N.J.) and Rob Wittman (R-Va.) in their respective chambers. In addition, the bill was championed by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chair Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and House Natural Resources Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.). A complete list of House and Senate cosponsors can be found on the Congress.gov website (Senate and House).
"We owe our Congressional champions in the House and Senate an enormous debt of gratitude for believing in this program and guiding it through an often complicated legislative process," Lighthizer noted. "Thanks to their tireless efforts, thousands of acres of genuine American history that might have been lost to development can still be preserved for future generations."
In addition to reauthorizing the existing Civil War matching grants program, the bill expands the program's authority to provide grants to protect Revolutionary War and War of 1812 battlefields. Similar to the Civil War grants, which are awarded for priority battlefield land identified in a 1993 government report on Civil War battlefields (updated in 2011), funding for Revolutionary War and War of 1812 battlefields will target sites listed in a 2007 study by the American Battlefield Protection Program. Among the battlefields that could potentially benefit from the expanded program are: Bennington, N.Y. and Vt.; Brandywine, Pa.; Cowpens, S.C.; Caulk's Field, Md.; Guilford Courthouse, N.C.; Princeton, N.J.; River Raisin, Mich.; Saratoga, N.Y.; and Yorktown, Va.
In his remarks, Lighthizer also noted that this legislation, by encouraging the protection of battlefield land, also honors the courage and sacrifices of all who served in America's military. "Preserved battlefields are living monuments - not just to the soldiers who fought in those hallowed fields - but to all Americans who have worn our nation's uniform. There are no better places to learn about the human cost of the freedoms we enjoy today."
The combined Civil War, Revolutionary War and War of 1812 matching program is authorized at $10 million a year for seven years, through the end of FY 2021. The FY 2015 Omnibus Appropriations Act (H.R. 83) currently under consideration by the Congress includes $8.9 million for the program.
In addition to the American Battlefields Protection Program Amendments Act, the lands package in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) also included other important battlefield preservation initiatives, including modest expansions of the national military parks at Gettysburg and Vicksburg, as well as legislation to explore adding Mill Springs Battlefield in Kentucky to the National Park System. President Obama is expected to sign NDAA into law later this month.
The Civil War Trust is the premier nonprofit organization devoted to the preservation of America's hallowed battlegrounds. The Trust is the principal nonprofit advocate for federal battlefield preservation programs and legislation. Although primarily focused on the protection of Civil War battlefields, through its Campaign 1776 initiative, the Trust also seeks to save the battlefields connected to the Revolutionary War and War of 1812. To date, the Trust has preserved more than 40,000 acres of battlefield land in 20 states. Learn more at www.civilwar.org.
The Civil War Preservation Trust became the Civil War Trust in January 2011; the Civil War Trust became a division of the American Battlefield Trust in May 2018. Campaign 1776 was created in 2014 as an initiative of the Civil War Trust; in May 2018 it became the Revolutionary War Trust, a division of the American Battlefield Trust.