For Immediate Release: 12/05/07
Virginia Sesquicentennial Commission Endorses Battlefield Preservation Initiative
Commission unanimously passes resolution endorsing state funding for battlefield preservation in the years leading up to the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.
(Richmond, Va.) - At its meeting last Wednesday, the Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission unanimously adopted a resolution endorsing the Civil War Preservation Trust’s (CWPT) Virginia Sesquicentennial Battlefield Initiative. The Initiative encourages state funding for battlefield preservation in Virginia prior to and during the 150th anniversary of the Civil War (2011-2015).
“This is an immensely promising development for Virginia’s battlefields,” said CWPT President James Lighthizer. “As we approach the Civil War’s sesquicentennial, these hallowed grounds are more threatened than ever before. There is no better way to commemorate the sacrifices of our ancestors than to permanently protect the land where they fought and bled.”
CWPT has spent two decades working to protect hallowed ground in the Commonwealth and throughout the nation. While the Trust has already preserved nearly 12,000 acres of battlefield land at 40 sites in Virginia, significantly more historic land in the Old Dominion remains vulnerable to development. As part of the Initiative, CWPT has identified in excess of 50,000 acres within the state that should, if possible, be preserved prior to the sesquicentennial, lest they be lost forever. Nationally, an average of 30 acres of hallowed ground is destroyed daily.
“The Commission feels very strongly that preservation must be a central part of our commemoration activities,” said Virginia House Speaker Bill Howell, Chairman of the Virginia Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission. “As the stewards of these sacred places, it is incumbent upon us to see them protected so that future generations may learn from them.”
The upcoming commemoration is expected to generate increased interest in both Civil War history and visitation to Civil War-related sites. Since preserved battlefields function as both outdoor classrooms and tourist destinations, the Virginia Sesquicentennial Battlefield Initiative is an ideal way to enhance this period of remembrance.
“Through its actions, the Virginia Sesquicentennial Commission is ensuring that for generations to come, students of history will be able to come to the Old Dominion to follow in the footsteps of heroes,” Lighthizer noted. “We at CWPT are proud to have such a visionary partner in our preservation efforts, particularly one which unanimously recognizes the importance of this undertaking.”
In the Initiative, CWPT calls for a yearly appropriation of $5 million for battlefield preservation to be considered along with each annual state budget. If approved, the money will be made available in the form of matching grants requiring two dollars in private funds for each dollar allocated by the state. This mechanism effectively triples the power of the state’s contribution and creates a powerful public-private partnership. Previously, in fiscal years 2006-07 and 2007-08, the state legislature has approved a total of $700,000 in appropriations for battlefield preservation, funds that have been used toward the acquisition of the Slaughter Pen Farm in Spotsylvania County and portions of the Glendale battlefield in Henrico County.
Although the Commission’s vote does not guarantee the funding, it is an important step in formalizing the group’s stated intention that preservation, along with education, must be an important component of the commemoration.
In addition to their historical importance, preserved battlefields maintain valuable open space in some of the state’s fastest growing regions. Many of these battlefields lie within the Chesapeake Bay watershed, giving them key environmental importance. Others, moreover, contain threatened wildlife habitats, riparian zones and endangered streams and creeks.
With 65,000 members, CWPT is the largest nonprofit battlefield preservation organization in the United States. Its mission is to preserve our nation’s remaining Civil War battlefields. Since 1987, the organization has saved more than 25,000 acres of hallowed ground, including 11,775 acres in Virginia. CWPT’s website is located at www.civilwar.org.