HEARING HELD ON HOLT REVOLUTIONARY WAR BATTLEFIELD PROTECTION LEGISLATION
The Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands of the House Committee on Natural Resources today held a hearing on legislation introduced by Rep. Rush Holt (NJ-12) that would establish a federal grant program specifically for preserving and protecting battle sites associated with the American Revolution or the War of 1812. According to a 2007 National Parks Service (NPS) report, 170 of 677 nationally significant sites associated with the two wars are in danger of being destroyed in the next 10 years, including sites in Trenton and Princeton. Holt's bill, H.R. 160, the Revolutionary War and War of 1812 Battlefield Protection Act, would create a new grant program under the American Battlefield Protection Act of 1996. At least 33 states could benefit if the bill were to pass.
"History is best experienced by those who can touch it, feel it and live it, and the battlefields of the American Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 provide a unique opportunity for Americans to experience where and how the epic struggle for our nation's independence took place," Holt said. "Preserving these American historic treasures is essential for remembering the sacrifices that our forefathers made to secure our freedom and independence and for educating future generations about our rich cultural history."
Implementation of Holt's bill would authorize the use of money in the Land and Water Conservation Fund for the preservation and protection of Revolutionary War and War of 1812 battlefields and related historical sites, in addition to the Civil War sites already covered under current law. It would allow officials at the American Battlefield Protection Program to collaborate with state and local governments and non-profit organizations to preserve and protect the most endangered historical sites and to provide up to fifty percent of the costs of purchasing battlefield land threatened by sprawl and commercial development. In addition to the 170 sites in danger of being destroyed within the next 10 years, the NPS "Report to Congress on the Historic Preservation of Revolutionary War and War of 1812 Sites in the United States" found that 99 have already been lost forever and 234 are in poor condition.
As part of the hearing, Holt introduced David Hackett Fischer, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and an Earl Warren Professor of History at Brandeis University. Fischer called the problems presented by the report "urgent" and said Holt's bill would help preserve sites that serve as one of the best ways individuals can learn about history.
"Even as interest in history is growing, some historic sites - even some of the most important - are much at risk. This problem is urgent. Last year, we suffered the loss of a very important site. This year, an important part of a major Revolutionary battlefield could be lost. These problems are urgent, and this bill could make a difference."