S. 779 - National Parks Bills



STATEMENT OF STEVEN E. WHITESELL, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR FOR PARK PLANNING, FACILITIES, AND LANDS, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SENATE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES, CONCERNING S.779, A BILL TO AUTHORIZE THE ACQUISITION AND PROTECTION OF NATIONALLY SIGNIFICANT BATTLEFIELDS AND ASSOCIATED SITES OF THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR AND THE WAR OF 1812 UNDER THE AMERICAN BATTLEFIELD PROTECTION PROGRAM

May 11, 2011

Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to present the views of the Department of the Interior on S. 779, to authorize the acquisition and protection of nationally significant battlefields and associated sites of the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 under the American Battlefield Protection Program.

The Department supports S. 779. This legislation would expand the American Battlefield Protection Program to include both the War of 1812 and Revolutionary War battlefields in addition to Civil War battlefields, which are covered under the current program. It would authorize $10 million in grants for Revolutionary War and War of 1812 battlefield sites, as well as $10 million in grants for Civil War battlefield sites, for each of fiscal years 2012 through 2022. The American Battlefield Protection Program is currently authorized through fiscal 2013.

In March 2008, the National Park Service transmitted the Report to Congress on the Historic Preservation of Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 Sites in the United States, which identified and determined the relative significance of sites related to the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.The study assessed the short and long-term threats to the sites.Following the success of the 1993 Civil War Sites Advisory Commission Report on the Nation's Civil War Battlefields, this study similarly provides alternatives for the preservation and interpretation of the sites by Federal, State, and local governments or other public or private entities.

The direction from Congress for the study was the same as for a Civil War sites study of the early 1990s.As authorized by Congress for this study, the National Park Service looked at sites and structures that are thematically tied with the nationally significant events that occurred during the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.The result was a more thorough survey that represents twice the field effort undertaken for the Civil War study.

Building upon this study, S. 779 would create a matching grant program for Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 sites that closely mirrors a very successful matching grant program for Civil War sites.The Civil War acquisition grant program was first authorized by Congress in the Civil War Battlefield Protection Act of 2002 (Public Law 107-359), and was reauthorized through FY 2013 by the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 (Public Law 111-11).That grant fund has been tremendously successful in allowing local preservation efforts to permanently preserve Civil War battlefield land with a minimum of Federal assistance.

With the release of the Report to Congress on the Historic Preservation of Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 Sites in the United States, communities interested in preserving their Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 sites can take the first steps similar to what the Civil War advocates began doing nearly two decades ago.If established, this new grant program can complement the existing grant program for Civil War battlefields and, in doing so, become a benefit to the American people by providing for the preservation and protection of a greater number of sites from the Revolutionary War and War 1812. All funds would be subject to NPS priorities and the availability of appropriations.

Mr. Chairman, this concludes my testimony.I would be pleased to respond to any questions from you and members of the committee.