U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) visited Slaughter Pen battlefield today to announce his second bill, the American Battlefield Protection Program Amendments Act. The bipartisan bill introduced by Kaine and Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS) during the sesquicentennial of the Civil War will preserve historical battlegrounds by reauthorizing the Civil War Battlefield Preservation Program (CWBPP) that provides competitive federal grants to match private and non-profit donations.
"I am pleased to introduce this bill with Senator Cochran," said Kaine. "Historical battlegrounds serve as living reminders of our nation's past. In Virginia, we have more Civil War battlefields than any other state, and I am committed to working with both parties and members of our delegation to ensure this hallowed ground is preserved for local citizens and tourists who visit these sites."
"With this year marking the 150th anniversary of so many pivotal Civil War battles, it is an appropriate time to extend our efforts to preserve key battlefield sites," said Cochran. "These sites remind us of the enormous sacrifices made by our forebears in the name of freedom, and should be protected in order to help teach future generations of Americans."
Since the program was initiated in December 2002, more than 17,500 acres of high-priority Civil War battle sites have been preserved to boost tourism and conserve land while preserving the nation's heritage. The Civil War Trust estimates there are still more than 50,000 acres of unprotected battlefield land in Virginia that meet the criteria of this program.
"The Civil War Trust and the historic preservation community are deeply grateful to Senator Kaine, not just for his long record of support for the protection of America's hallowed ground, but for his vision in ensuring that future generations will have the opportunity to visit the places where our nation was forged to learn their valuable lessons and enjoy their scenic beauty," said Civil War Trust President Jim Lighthizer.
In addition to protecting the educational landmarks for local citizens, the grants program serves as a low-cost measure to enable growth in local and state revenues. In five states, including Virginia, Civil War battlegrounds and museums have generated $442 million for local communities and supported 5,150 local jobs. Each year, local and state governments gain $32.7 million from tourism and activity around the historical sites, which helps to ease the cost burden of government services while increasing property value for homes near Civil War sites.
As governor, Kaine worked with members of both parties, including Speaker Bill Howell who attended today's event, to preserve more than 400,000 acres of open space across Virginia, including Civil War battlefields. The Commonwealth created the Virginia Historic Battlefield Preservation Fund in 2006 that leveraged public-private partnerships for battlefield preservation. In 2008, Virginia committed $5.2 million to the program, the largest contribution by a state government in history. Governor Bob McDonnell continues to fund this program.
The American Battlefield Protection Program Amendments Act will protect the $10 million authorization that is set to expire in September 2013 and extend funding through 2018. In addition to Civil War sites, this bill would add Revolutionary War and War of 1812 sites to program eligibility. The companion bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives on April 2013 and was introduced by U.S. Representative Rush Holt (NJ-12) and co-sponsored by Virginia U.S. Representatives Rob Wittman (VA-01) and Jim Moran (VA-08).