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CWPT Launches Plan To Increase Funds For Battlefileds In Virginia

By Deborah Fitts

- (December 2007) RICHMOND, Va. - Asserting that "millions are needed" to save Virginia's Civil War battlefields, the Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT) is proposing legislation that would generate major funding to buy threatened battlefields in the commonwealth.

CWPT spokesman Jim Campi said the "Sesquicentennial Battlefield Initiative" will come under consideration by the Virginia General Assembly as early as January, when the legislators meet in their next session.

"We've gotten positive feedback," said Campi. "We've been meeting with Gov. (Tim) Kaine and he is supportive."

The CWPT proposal would boost considerably the state's present Civil War Battlefield Preservation Fund. In 2006-07 the legislature appropriated $500,000 to the fund, and another $200,000 for 2007-08.

CWPT wants the fund to rise to $5 million a year for the next five years, to mark the war's upcoming 150th anniversary.

In a statement supporting the initiative, CWPT noted that the nonprofit had identified more than 50,000 acres of threatened Civil War battlefields in Virginia "that should be preserved prior to the Sesquicentennial."

The statement adds that much of the land lies in "the Commonwealth's fastest-growing regions," including Hanover, Henrico and Spotsylvania counties as well as in the Shenandoah Valley, and much "could be bulldozed in the next five years if immediate steps are not taken to protect it."

Campi noted that the fund requires a two-to-one, non-state-to-state match. That means, he pointed out, that $5 million a year would result in $15 million for battlefield preservation.

"Millions are needed," said Campi. He added that the final amount approved by the General Assembly "will probably be lower" than the $5 million a year that CWPT is seeking, "but it would be substantially more than it is now."

Of the $500,000 appropriated in 2006-07, CWPT received $300,000 toward its $12 million purchase of the Slaughter Pen Farm in Spotsylvania County, and $200,000 toward land at Glendale. CWPT also received the entire $200,000 appropriated for the current year, which Campi said will likely be put toward Glendale.

Campi noted that other battlefield-preservation groups may also compete for the funding.

The Trust's statement supporting the initiative also pointed out that acquisition of battlefield land also results in protection of open space, streams and wildlife habitat, and promotes heritage tourism.

Campi said CWPT is planning "a grassroots campaign" to urge Virginia residents to contact their legislators regarding the initiative.

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