May 10, 2013

FACT SHEET: American Battlefield Protection Program Amendments Act

Background:America’s historic battlefields allow us to experience the epic battles that defined our nation.  From the Revolutionary War to the War of 1812 to the Civil War, preserving these American historic treasures helps to educate future generations about our rich cultural history and to commemorate the sacrifices made to secure our freedom.

Unfortunately, suburban sprawl and haphazardly-planned development are encroaching on many of these significant battlefields. Only about 20 percent of the land upon which the Civil War was fought is preserved — the rest is either unprotected or has been lost forever. Of the 825 nationally significant battlefields and associated sites from the Revolutionary War and War of 1812, 107 have been lost, 245 are in fragmented or poor condition, and 222 are in danger of being destroyed within the next ten years.

  • The American Battlefield Protection Program Amendments Act would reauthorize the American Battlefield Protection Program, which provides matching grants for buying land – at fair market value from willing sellers – to preserve as hallowed ground.  This program is scheduled to expire at the end of September.
  • The existing program is the result of a commission created by Congress that recommended an “emergency” matching grants program be established to protect high priority Civil War battlefields.
  • In addition to Civil War sites, this bill would add Revolutionary War and War of 1812 sites to program eligibility.
  • The program was formally authorized in December 2002, when President Bush signed into law the “Civil War Battlefield Preservation Act.”  The program was reauthorized in March 2009, when President Obama signed into law the “Omnibus Public Lands Act.
  • The program has received broad bipartisan support.  The U.S. House of Representatives passed it on April 9, 2013.  Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS) has cosponsored this bill with Senator Kaine.

Battlefield Preservation Means Economic Development

In Virginia, Civil War visitors stay twice as long and spend double the money of the average tourist. Daily spending in Virginia for all travelers surveyed averaged $52, but Civil War travelers on average spent $80 per person per day.

In five states, including Virginia, 15.8 million visitors have gone to 15 National Park Service Civil War Battlefields and historic sites, spent $442 million in local communities, and supported 5,150 local jobs.

The Civil War Trust estimates that there are still 50,000 acres of unprotected battlefield land in Virginia that meet the criteria of this program. The Civil War Trust has preserved 122 Virginia battlefields out of 384 for the entire program – by far the most in one state.