American Battlefield Protection Program Amendments Act of 2012

Floor Speech

By:  Rush Holt, Jr.
Date: Sept. 10, 2012
Location: Washington, DC


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

I would like to thank my colleagues from the Natural Resources Committee for working with me to bring this bill to the floor today, our bipartisan bill, which is the American Battlefield Protection Program Amendments Act. I was pleased to work with Chairman Hastings and Chairman Bishop and Ranking Members Markey and Grijalva to move this bill through our committee, and I would like to thank the majority and minority staffs for their hard work.

The bill before us today reauthorizes the American Battlefield Protection Program, which is a competitive grant program that matches Federal dollars with private money to preserve historic war sites. H.R. 2489 builds on the success of the Civil War Battlefield Protection Program, which has preserved Civil War battlefield sites. The legislation also expands the grant program to include over 670 historic battlefields and associated sites from the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.

Since 1996, when the Battlefield Protection Program was first authorized, the program has helped preserve many important sites, including, for example, the Fort Gregg, New Market Heights Battlefield in Virginia.

In fiscal year 2011, a protection grant helped preserve a 7.2-acre property best remembered because of the unquestioned valor of the African American Union soldiers who fought there. There are many other examples that I could point to: the Wilderness Crossroads, the Reynolds Tract, Perryville Battlefield in Kentucky, the Slaughter Pen Farm, Fredericksburg Battlefield in Virginia, and so forth.

H.R. 2489 would allow the American Battlefield Protection Program to collaborate with State and local governments, nonprofit organizations, and willing sellers--and I do want to emphasize that point--to protect the most endangered historical sites, and to provide up to half the costs of purchasing battlefield land threatened by sprawl and commercial development.

From Lexington, where the shot was heard around the world, to Gettysburg, where Lincoln brilliantly summarized the description of the conception and proposition of our Nation, the stories of the American Revolution and the Civil War bring to life the ideals of liberty and democracy fostered by our Founders.

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 historic sites.

History is best experienced by those who can touch it, feel it, and live it, and the battlefields of the American Revolutionary War, 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.

In my home State of New Jersey, there are more sites of military engagements than in any other State. More military engagements were fought in New Jersey than in any other State. New Jersey played an influential role in the War for Independence.

I was pleased to join Representative Frelinghuysen and Senator Lautenberg, and the rest of the New Jersey delegation, in establishing some years ago the Crossroads of the American Revolution National Heritage Area in our State. The Crossroads Association has made enormous progress toward promoting our State's rich heritage, and the bill before us today, I think, is vital for organizations like Crossroads in New Jersey and others to perform their important work.

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

Preserving these American historic treasures is essential to remember the sacrifices our ancestors made to secure our freedom and independence, and to preserve our Republic.

Historical sites, once lost, are gone forever. They exist only on the pages of books and in fading memories. We must act to preserve these valuable sites while we still can. Approving this bill will demonstrate that the Members of this House can work together. Historic preservation is not a Republican issue, not a Democratic issue. Historic preservation is an American issue because it is our shared history that we are working to preserve and to protect.

I thank the majority for working with me on this bill. During the 111th Congress, similar legislation was twice approved by this body with near unanimous support. In this Congress, the American Battlefield Protection Program Amendments Act is again enjoying bipartisan support, and I certainly hope the other body will act promptly so that we can get about the work of preserving these sites.

I urge my colleagues to support H.R. 2489, and I yield back the balance of my time.


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