For Immediate Release: 04/20/10
Governor McDonnell Joins with Preservation Leaders to Laud Virginia Land Conservation Accomplishments
Ceremony includes bill signing and announcement of awards for historic battlefield preservation
(Chancellorsville, Va.) – At a dedication ceremony today, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell joined with state legislators and preservation leaders to celebrate Virginia’s leadership role in historic land conservation. The ceremony was held at the Wagner Farm on the Chancellorsville Battlefield, a site recently preserved by the Commonwealth of Virginia in partnership with the Civil War Preservation Trust. The event is part of a week-long series of statewide commemorations for the 40th anniversary of Earth Day (April 22, 2010).
“Today, during a week of events commemorating the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, we reiterate our commitment to the future through the stewardship of Virginia’s remarkable open space lands, including important historic landscapes,” said Governor McDonnell.
“Virginia is home to many of our nation’s most historically significant lands and landmarks, and I am proud that the Commonwealth has taken decisive action to encourage the conservation of these unique assets,” said Kathleen S. Kilpatrick, Director of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.
During the ceremony, Governor McDonnell signed into law legislation permanently establishing the Virginia Civil War Sites Preservation Fund, a matching grants program to protect battlefield land in the Old Dominion. This legislation passed the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates unanimously, demonstrating broad bipartisan support. The fund has been used to save nearly 2,000 acres at 24 battlefields in the Commonwealth, including the Wagner Farm. In addition, the Governor announced $300,000 in new grant awards for seven properties. Five of the sites will be preserved by the Civil War Preservation Trust and two by the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation in partnership with the Department of Historic Resources.
“Already, this program has proved an invaluable tool for the protection of significant historic landscapes,” said CWPT President James Lighthizer. “It is the finest program of its kind in the country and I am confident that its permanent establishment will be a lasting benefit to future generations of Virginians and Americans.”
According to William J. Howell, Speaker of the House of Delegates, historic land preservation is an appropriate way to recognize the war’s upcoming 150th anniversary. “By protecting the land where Americans once fought and bled, we remember every soldier, in blue or gray, who was part of our country’s tragic conflict,” Howell said.
Dr. Lauranett Lee, curator of African American history at the Virginia Historical Society further underscored the importance of preservation efforts, saying, “These living landscapes are outdoor classrooms with an unparalleled capacity to connect students and lifelong learners to history in a powerful and personal way. They are tangible milestones along the American journey to help us explore the definition and achievement of freedom.”
Speaking at the ceremony, Secretary of Natural Resources Doug Domenech highlighted another aspect of battlefield preservation’s wide-reaching impact — its often overlooked environmental benefits.
“By protecting these battlefields, we are also protecting wildlife habitats and water quality,” he said. “In some cases, we are creating open space for community recreation and enjoyment. While in other cases, like here at Chancellorsville, we are protecting valuable, working farmland in a rapidly growing community. The partnerships created by this program will play a key role in reaching the governor’s goal of protecting 400,000 acres of open space during his administration.”
Following remarks outlining the program’s successes and continuing relevance, Governor McDonnell was joined by Senator Edward Houck and Delegate Chris Peace for a ceremonial bill signing. Peace was the chief patron of the legislation passed unanimously by the House of Delegates; a companion Senate bill introduced by Houck was similarly passed without a single “no” vote.
Today’s ceremony was held on the site of fighting on May 2, 1863, during the battle of Chancellorsville. Following the event, attendees were able to participate in the first-ever public tour of this land associated with “Jackson’s Flank Attack,” one of the Civil War’s most studied assaults.
Through the Virginia Civil War Site Preservation Fund, Virginia has become an unprecedented leader in historic land conservation, with Lighthizer going so far as to call the legislators and other government officials involved in creating and administering the program “modern heroes for history” who have already permanently protected nearly 2,000 acres of battlefield land.
Among the sites that have already benefitted from these state grants are Appomattox Court House, Appomattox Station, Brandy Station, Cedar Creek, Chancellorsville, Cold Harbor, Cross Keys, First Deep Bottom, Fishers Hill, Glendale, Malvern Hill, Port Republic, Sailor’s Creek, Second Deep Bottom, Third Winchester and Trevilian Station.
The grants announced today will go to preserve lands associated with battlefields at Cedar Creek (Warren County), Fisher’s Hill (Shenandoah County), Glendale (Henrico County), Manassas (Prince William County), Reams Station (Dinwiddie County), Ware Bottom Church (Chesterfield County), and Williamsburg (City of Williamsburg).
About the Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT)
With 55,000 members, Civil War Preservation Trust is the largest nonprofit battlefield preservation organization in the United States. Its mission is to preserve our nation’s endangered Civil War battlefields and to promote appreciation of these hallowed grounds. CWPT has preserved more than 29,000 acres of battlefield land across the nation, including approximately 14,600 acres in Virginia. CWPT’s website is www.civilwar.org.
About the Shenandoah Valley Battlefield Foundation (SVBF)
Created by Congress in 1996, the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields National Historic District encompasses Augusta, Clarke, Frederick, Highland, Page, Rockingham, Shenandoah and Warren counties in Virginia and the cities of Harrisonburg, Staunton, Waynesboro and Winchester. As authorized by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, SVBF serves as the non-profit manager of the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields National Historic District, partnering with local, regional and national organizations and governments to preserve the Valley’s battlefields and interpret and promote the region’s Civil War story. SVBF’s website is www.shenandoahatwar.org.
About the Department of Historic Resources (DHR)
The Virginia Department of Historic Resources, headquartered in Richmond, Va., serves as the state historic preservation office for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Its mission is to identify, recognize and provide incentives, and tools to support the preservation and use of Virginia’s significant historic, archaeological and architectural resources. DHR’s website is http://www.dhr.virginia.gov.