On March 3, 2009, the House of Representatives passed two battlefield protection bills that authorize federal grants for the preservation of significant sites associated with the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 and the Civil War. Similar bills passed the House last year, but were not considered by the Senate before it adjourned.
H.R. 146, the “Revolutionary War and War of 1812 Battlefield Protection Act,” amends the “American Battlefield Protection Act of 1996 (Public Law 104-333)” to direct the Secretary of the Interior to establish an acquisition grant program for battlefields and associated sites identified in a Revolutionary War and War of 1812 Historic Preservation Study prepared by the National Park Service (NPS).
The bill would authorize $10 million in grants annually in fiscal 2010-14 from the Land and Water Conservation Fund for the preservation and protection of Revolutionary War and War of 1812 battlefields and related historical sites, as is currently done for Civil War sites. The bill would allow officials at the American Battlefield Protection Program to collaborate with state and local governments and non-profit organizations to preserve and protect the most endangered historical sites and to provide up to 50 percent of the costs of purchasing battlefield land threatened by sprawl and commercial development.
According to a 2007 National Parks Service “Report to Congress on the Historic Preservation of Revolutionary War and War of 1812 Sites in the United States,” 170 of 677 nationally significant sites associated with the two wars are in danger of being destroyed in the next 10 years. . In addition to the 170 sites in danger of being destroyed within the next 10 years, the NPS found that 99 have already been lost forever and 234 are in poor condition. The bill includes $500,000 to update the Report within three years of enactment.
The House also passed H.R. 548, the “Civil War Battlefield Preservation Act of 2009.”
The legislation directs the Secretary of the Interior, acting through the American Battlefield Protection Program, to assist and work in partnership with citizens, federal, state, local, and tribal governments, other public entities, educational institutions, and private nonprofits in the identification, research, evaluation, interpretation, and protection of historic Civil War battlefields and associated sites.
The bill establishes a battlefield acquisition grant program under which the Secretary may provide grants to eligible entities (states and local governments) to pay the federal share of the cost to acquire interests in eligible sites for the preservation and protection of those sites. It permits an eligible entity to acquire an interest in an eligible site using a grant in partnership with a nonprofit and requires the non-federal share to be at least 50 percent. It limits acquisitions of land and interests under the bill to acquisitions of conservation easements and fee-simple purchases of eligible sites from willing sellers only.
The legislation authorizes appropriations to fund grants at a level of $10 million annually through fiscal year 2013. The Act would be repealed on September 30, 2019.