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Public Statements

American Battlefield Protection Program Amendments Act of 2013

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. HOLT. I rise in support of the American Battlefield Protection Program Amendments Act that Mr. Wittman and I have brought to the committee and now to the floor.

From Lexington, where the shot still reverberates, to Gettysburg, the site of the battle described so brilliantly and concisely by Lincoln, to the stories of the American Revolution and the Civil War, it is at the battlefields that we bring to life the ideals of liberty and democracy fostered by our Nation's Founders.

History is best experienced by those who can touch it, feel it, live it; and the battlefields of the American Revolution, the War of 1812, and the Civil War provide a unique opportunity for Americans to experience where and how the epic struggle for our Nation's independence and identity took place. Unfortunately, urbanization, suburban sprawl, and unplanned commercial and residential development are constantly encroaching on many of the significant battlefields of the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and the Civil War. This encroachment poses a severe and growing risk to the preservation of these historically significant sites.

Congress recognized this danger to our shared history and in the late 1990s created the American Battlefield Protection Program, a competitive grant program that matches Federal dollars with private money to preserve Civil War sites. Since Congress first appropriated funding for this program, it has helped to save more than 17,000 acres of hallowed ground in 14 States, again encouraging private funds for acquiring land from willing sellers.

The bill before us today, H.R. 1033, would build on the success of the American Battlefield Protection Program in preserving Civil War battlefield sites and would reauthorize this program and extend the protection and preservation to battlefields from the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.

H.R. 1033 would allow officials at the American Battlefield Protection Program to collaborate with State and local governments and nonprofit organizations to preserve and protect the most endangered historical sites and provide up to 50 percent of the cost of purchasing the battlefield land threatened by sprawl and commercial development, again from willing sellers encouraging the use of private funds.

Previously, this legislation has been approved three times by this House with overwhelming bipartisan support, mostly unanimous.

In a markup in the House Natural Resources Committee last month, the American Battlefield Protection Program Amendments Act again passed unanimously.

As the Civil War Trust said in their letter supporting this legislation:

The battlefields of the American Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and the Civil War provide a unique opportunity for Americans to experience the epic battles that helped define our Nation. Preserving these American historic treasures is essential to remember the sacrifices that our ancestors made to secure our freedom and independence and preserve our Republic.

With the ongoing bicentennial commemoration of the War of 1812 and the ongoing sesquicentennial commemoration of the Civil War, this is an opportune time to recommit ourselves to the protection of our Nation's hallowed grounds. Historical sites, once lost, are gone forever. We should act now to preserve these valuable sites.

The National Park Service has done an inventory of sites around the country, and they point to many that need this protection now.

I thank my colleague from Virginia for his enthusiastic support. I point out that there is strong bipartisan support for this legislation as cosponsors and other supporters. And I urge my colleagues to join us in supporting this bill.

With that, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. HOLT. Mr. Speaker, in closing, I thank my good friend from Virginia, and would reiterate what he has said.

In fact, the original legislation, which we are reauthorizing and extending through this bill, grew out of Virginia. It was because of the critical battlefields in Virginia that were at risk of being lost that this battlefield protection legislation was developed, but it will be beneficial across many States.

If you look where the War of 1812 was fought--in the Deep South and around the Great Lakes--and where the Revolutionary War was fought, which was up and down the Thirteen Colonies, this is something that is of great national importance; and because the authorization is about to expire, it is needed; and because so many of these battlefields are at great risk of being overrun by sprawl and development, it is at the greatest need now.

I urge my colleagues to support it, and I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. HOLT. I would like to add to his economic numbers the fiscal fact that this does not appropriate any funds. We are just reauthorizing existing legislation and extending it.

I thank the gentleman.

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