Legislation aims to preserve Civil War battlefields

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) has introduced bipartisan legislation to reauthorize the program that helps preserve historic battlegrounds in the United States, including battlefields in Mississippi.

Cochran joined Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va.) to introduce the American Battlefield Protection Program Amendments Act (S.916). The bill reauthorizes the Civil War Battlefield Preservation Program (CWBPP) that provides competitive federal grants to match private and non-profit donations. This legislation would for the first time extend the program to significant battle sites associated with the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.

The American Battlefield Protection Program Amendments Act would extend through 2018 the existing $10 million authorization that is set to expire in September 2013. In addition to Civil War sites, it would add Revolutionary War and War of 1812 sites to program eligibility. Introduction of S.916 follows the passage of a companion measure (HR.1033) in April.  The House measure was cosponsored by Representative Bennie Thompson.

More than 17,500 acres of high-priority Civil War battle sites have been preserved since the program was initiated in December 2002. More than 3,300 acres in Mississippi have been preserved. In addition to preserving historic battlefield sites, the CWBPP has helped to enhancement tourism, support local and state economies and increase land conservation.

Earlier this year, Cochran introduced the Champion Hill, Port Gibson and Raymond Battlefield Addition Act (S.305) that would authorize the National Park Service (NPS) to acquire approximately 10,000 acres of property deemed significant to the long-term preservation of historic Civil War battlefield sites in Claiborne and Hinds counties. The bill, which is cosponsored by Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), specifies that any purchases must be acquired through voluntary sales, donations or exchanges.

Like S.305, the American Battlefield Protection Program Amendments Act has been referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources for consideration.

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