Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today announced that $400,000 in Land and Water Conservation Funds will be used to acquire and preserve an additional 285 acres of hallowed grounds on the Gaines Mill battlefield at Richmond National Battlefield Park.
Today's announcement is part of a weeklong series of events across the country by Obama Administration officials to highlight the 50th anniversary of the Fund, which invests part of the revenue from oil and gas leases on federal lands to support communities' conservation, outdoor recreation and clean water projects, as well as preserve historic sites across the country. Only once in the past 50 years has Congress appropriated Land and Water Conservation Fund funding at the full authorized level of $900 million and the program is set to expire without action from Congress. President Obama's budget request includes a legislative proposal to establish dedicated mandatory funding for Land and Water Conservation Fund programs, with full funding at $900 million beginning in 2015.
"The permanent protection of this important Civil War battlefield is an example of how the Land and Water Conservation Fund has helped state and local governments fund more than 40,000 close-to-home projects over the past half century, including the preservation of more than 20,000 acres of Civil War battlefields," said Secretary Jewell. "Congress should make good on its promise and enact full and permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund so that future generations of Americans can learn from the important history lessons played out on these battlefields which have shaped the course of our American story."
Jewell cited the Gaines' Mill battlefield acquisition as a prime example of how the Land and Water Conservation Fund can honor our nation's important history by preserving key Civil War battlefields and other hallowed grounds. The property was acquired for $3.2 million in 2012 by the Civil War Trust, capped with a matching grant from the Commonwealth of Virginia. The $400,000 in funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund enabled the transfer of the property to the National Park Service for perpetual stewardship as part of Richmond National Battlefield Park. Secretary Jewell was joined at today's announcement by Civil War Trust President Jim Lighthizer and Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources Molly Ward.
"As Americans are enjoying the great outdoors this summer, we recognize the impact of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which has allowed us to protect and share natural, historic and recreational areas nationwide," National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis said. "Today's addition of 285 acres to Richmond National Battlefield Park highlights how the Land and Water Conservation Fund can leverage the generosity of groups like the Civil War Trust to enhance our parks for the benefit of all Americans."
Jewell noted that projects supported by the Fund benefit not only communities' quality of life but also local economies by drawing visitors and helping local businesses. Another study shows that for every $1 invested in federal land acquisition through the Land and Water Conservation Fund, there is a return of $4 to state and local communities.
More than 22 million people visit Virginia's 22 national parks, with out-of-town visitors contributing $926 million to local economies and supporting 13,256 private sector jobs. At Richmond National Battlefield Park, for example, out-of-town visitors contributed more than $8 million to the local economy in 2012, supporting 118 jobs in the community.
Today's announcement builds on work undertaken by the Civil War Trust over the last decade to preserve Richmond's Civil War battlefields, a partnership with the National Park Service that has seen the preservation of 2,524 acres of threatened battlefields in the Richmond area. The land added to the park today lies on the Gaines' Mill battlefield, which figured prominently in the summer 1862 Seven Days' campaign waged by Union Gen. George B. McClellan to take the Confederate capital. The June 27, 1862 Confederate victory at Gaines' Mill, Robert E. Lee's first as commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, radically shifted the strategic initiative in Virginia in favor of the Confederacy. This led to the Confederacy's first invasion of the North, culminating three months later at the Battle of Antietam.
"The scope of this project completely dwarfs all preservation efforts previously undertaken at Gaines' Mill," said Civil War Trust president James Lighthizer. "In just one transaction, we were able to quintuple the amount of land -- from 65 acres to 350 acres -- protected at the site of Gen. Robert E. Lee's first major victory as commander of the Army of Northern Virginia."
The Commonwealth of Virginia has long been a supporter of historic preservation, and provided $1.5 million in public monies towards the Civil War Trust's acquisition of the Gaines' Mill battlefield.
"From the Tidewater to Blue Ridge, Virginia is home to some of the most beautiful and historic places in America," said Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources Molly Ward. "It is an honor to stand side-by-side with the Department of the Interior, the National Park Service and outstanding private organizations like the Civil War Trust to ensure that these landscapes are protected for future generations of Americans."