House Panel Passes Battlefield Protection Bills

On July 16, 2008, the House Natural Resources Committee cleared two battlefield protection bills (H.R. 160 and H.R. 2933) that authorize federal grants for the preservation of significant sites associated with the Revolutionary War, War of 1812 and the Civil War.

H.R. 160, 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 recent Revolutionary War and War of 1812 Historic Preservation Study.

In May, the National Park Service released a “Report to Congress on the Historic Preservation of Revolutionary War and War of 1812 Sites in the United States.” The report identified the sites of almost 3,000 events associated with the two wars, including 60 sites within the National Park System. The report indicated that as many as 170 sites, especially those located in rapidly developing areas, will face injury or destruction in the next decade.

H.R. 160 authorizes grants to States or local governments (eligible entities) to pay the Federal share of the cost of acquiring endangered sites. The legislation permits these entities to acquire an interest in eligible sites (those identified in the NPS report) using the grants in partnership with nonprofit organizations. The bill requires the non-federal share of the cost of acquisition of eligible sites to be not less than 50 percent of the total.

H.R. 160 authorizes spending $10 million a year between fiscal year 2009 and fiscal year 2013 for the grants. The bill also authorizes $500,000 to update the Revolutionary War and War of 1812 Historic Preservation Study no later than 3 years after enactment of the legislation.

The Committee also passed H.R. 2933, the “Civil War Battlefield Preservation Act of 2008.” The bill reauthorizes the existing program providing battlefield preservation grants for sites associated with the Civil War. The “Civil War Preservation Act of 2002 (Public Law 107-359)” was set to expire on September 30, 2008. H.R. 2933 extends the authorization to cover fiscal year 2009 through fiscal 2013. The bill continues the annual authorization level of $10 million per fiscal year.