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Clint Schemmer writes about history, heritage preservation and the American Civil War.  On Facebook: Past is Prologue  On Twitter: @prologuepast  ContactEmail Clint or call 540/374-5424.

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U.S. House votes to save Civil War, Revolutionary War, War of 1812 sites

Members of the 14th Continental Army Regiment carry oars to their boats to re-enact Gen. George Washington’s Christmas Day crossing of the Delaware River before the Battle of Trenton. (ALEX BRANDON/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Big news from the Civil War Trust:

HOLT ANNOUNCES U.S. HOUSE PASSAGE OF BATTLEFIELD PROTECTION BILL

Bill Would Provide Matching Grants to Preserve Historic Sites Across the Country

Washington, D.C.–The U.S. House of Representatives [Monday] passed the American Battlefield Protection Program Amendments Act (H.R. 2489), a bipartisan bill authored by U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (NJ-12) that would provide competitive matching grants to preserve battlefields from the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and the Civil War.

The legislation will now be sent to the U.S. Senate for further consideration, where a companion bill has been introduced by U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (NY).

“Sprawl and commercial development are threatening the historic sites where our nation was forged and shaped,” Holt said.  “Each time a historic battlefield is replaced with a parking lot, a chapter of American history is obscured, and future generations lose an important window onto their heritage.  This bill would provide matching funds that would leverage private efforts to preserve our nation’s past.”

Holt’s legislation would build on the success of the American Battlefield Protection Program (ABPP), which provides competitive matching grants that support private efforts to preserve Civil War sites.  Since 1999, the program has helped to save more than 16,500 acres of historic sites in 14 states.

Holt’s bill would reauthorize the ABPP and create an identical program to preserve battlefields from the Revolutionary War and War of 1812.  Holt introduced similar legislation in the last session of Congress, and his bill passed the House unanimously.

The legislation is supported by numerous historic preservation organizations, including the Civil War Trust, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Crossroads of the American Revolution Association, and the National Parks Conservation Association.

“The public-private partnerships fostered through the American Battlefield Protection Program have been responsible for setting aside some of our nation’s most significant historic sites,” said James Lighthizer, president of the Civil War Trust.  “But our nation was not only shaped on the battlefields of the 1860s — and this measure will help encourage the protection and appreciation of the full scope of our history.”

“With every year that goes by, this legislation grows more urgent,” said noted historian David Hackett Fischer in his testimony to Congress in support of the bill.  “Sites now presently endangered include some of the most important events in the history of the American Revolution.”

Among the sites covered by Holt’s legislation are hundreds of battlefields and associated sites throughout New Jersey.  A full list of eligible areas in Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, and Somerset Counties is available online.

According to the National Park Service, the need to preserve battlefields from the Revolutionary War and War of 1812 is dire.  Out of the 825 nationally significant battlefields and associated sites from these wars, 107 have been lost, 245 are in fragmented or poor condition, and 222 are in danger of being destroyed within the next ten years.

The American Battlefield Protection Program Amendments Act is cosponsored by Rep. Steven Rothman (D-NJ), Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ), Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), and Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), among others.

AND SOME LINKS:

Library of Congress bill summary

GOP digest on bill.

The Bill Passed by the U.S. House

Office of Rep. Rush Holt

American Battlefield Protection Program

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