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Public Statements

American Battlefield Protection Program Amendments Act of 2013

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. WITTMAN. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

The American Battlefield Protection Act addressed the preservation and protection of Civil War battlefields through conservation easements or through the purchase of land from willing sellers with Federal grants. H.R. 1033 renews this effort which will soon expire and adds Revolutionary War and War of 1812 battlefields to those eligible for protection.

It is important to know that the bill we are considering mirrors the version from the last Congress that passed the House and included improvements made by the Natural Resources Committee. Specifically, the program sunset was moved up from 10 to 5 years, and we retained the existing authorization of appropriations to provide a more realistic funding level in these times of deficit spending.

Additionally, the committee added language to prohibit these funds from being used for lobbying activities or for being distributed to organizations that participate in lobbying. With so many existing needs within the National Park Service, we want to ensure that these funds go specifically for battlefield protection and not outside advocacy.

I would also like to point out that this legislation does not fund advocacy or educational seminars and programs. These grants are strictly available to State and local governments for battlefield protection. There is a separate and distinct Federal authorization for educational programs and partnership that is not part of this bill.


Mr. WITTMAN. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

As an original cosponsor of H.R. 1033, I would like to express my appreciation to Mr. Holt for his continued leadership to preserve and protect important historic battlefields throughout the United States, including those in his home State of New Jersey, which is better known as the ``crossroads of the American Revolution.''

As a Virginian, this legislation is also especially notable as it will continue to preserve important hallowed ground from our Nation's independence and the Civil War. The Civil War Battlefield Preservation program has been particularly beneficial to the Commonwealth of Virginia. As a result, hard-fought acres of battleground have been preserved in pivotal sites such as Appomattox, Cedar Creek, Chancellorsville, Fredericksburg, Manassas, Petersburg, and Richmond.

Preserving battlefields does more than just honor those who fought in those battles; it protects important places from development. I want to make sure that we continue those efforts in ensuring that we make the effort to keep these battlefields in their proper place in this Nation's history.

I also would like to emphasize that this program doesn't increase the amount of Federal land. I know there's been some criticism to say this is an effort to increase Federal land within this program. While it does increase and expand those battlefield areas that are eligible under the program, it doesn't increase the amount of Federal land in this particular project.

I want to make sure people understand that because this is really for the protection of battlefields outside of national park boundaries, giving those concerned within those areas the ability to help preserve those lands. There is no additional management burden on the Federal Government, so these lands are not going to become part of a system in which we have to incur more costs to maintain those lands. It's the ability to make sure that we preserve those lands. Especially today, with the encroachment of development in these areas, these critical, historical sites must be preserved, and this gives the folks in those areas the flexibility and the tools--the ability--to preserve these lands.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. WITTMAN. I yield myself such time as I may consume.

As Mr. Holt said, preserving battlefields is extraordinarily important, but it does more than just honor those who have fought in the past: it's important that it protects these places that are so important in our Nation's history.

Preserving these battlefields contributes economically to local businesses and to historic communities in these areas across the country. According to a recent study, in just five States, those States including Missouri, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia, 15.8 million visitors went to these Civil War sites and spent nearly $442 million in those local communities and supported 5,150 jobs. We talk all the time up here about jobs and the economy. This is something that we can do to improve and enhance jobs and the economy in these local communities.

We are blessed in Virginia, as Mr. Holt said, with a rich history. According to the Virginia Tourism Corporation, Civil War site visitors stay longer and spend more than twice as much as the average visitor to the Commonwealth. Preserving battlefields is good for local communities and businesses, and it's good for jobs and the economy.


Mr. WITTMAN. Mr. Speaker, again, the bill continues a modest investment of Federal resources to protect these hallowed grounds where independence was won and our Republic secured.

I do want to reiterate what Mr. Holt said in that this legislation does not increase authorized spending. Proponents of this program sought to double the annual spending authorization and add Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 sites to those eligible for grants, but the committee made sure that there was no increase in spending and insisted that the proposal be added to keep the authorization flat at these current levels when adding additional war sites. We wanted to make sure we had the opportunity for sites to be included, but in understanding where we are with the Nation's deficit, we wanted to make sure that we could preserve these sites without adding to the deficit. I think this is a very responsible way to do that, to make sure that communities have the ability to do the things they need to do, and also to make sure we keep in mind the times that we face here at the Federal level.

So I believe it's an extraordinarily good bill, and I urge my colleagues to support H.R. 1033.

I yield back the balance of my time.


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