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Cochran reintroduces park expansion bill

CLAIBORNE COUNTY and HINDS COUNTY — U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) has reintroduced his legislation to authorize the expansion of the Vicksburg National Military Park in Claiborne and Hinds counties.

Cochran and U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), the measure’s primary cosponsor, indicated their intent to push for Senate consideration of the Champion Hill, Port Gibson and Raymond Battlefield Addition Act. First introduced in November, the legislation was referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

The Cochran-Wicker bill would authorize the National Park Service (NPS) to acquire, through voluntary sale, donation or exchange, approximately 10,000 acres of property determined to be significant to the preservation of historic battlefield sites.

The measure addresses three separate parcels: the Port Gibson Unit in Claiborne County; and, the Raymond Unit and Champion Hill Unit, both in Hinds County.  Designated “modified core battlefield” sites by the NPS, these properties also encompass several historic homes, such as the Shaifer House at Port Gibson and the Coker House at Champion Hill.

The NPS would assume maintenance and security responsibilities for these structures once they are included in the Military Park.

The legislation was developed with input from the NPS, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, the Civil War Preservation Trust and local officials.

While few so-called lands bills were enacted in the 111th Congress, both Cochran and Wicker believe the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War might help propel their legislation in the new 112th Congress.

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