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A Report From The Civil War Preservation Trust

By O. James Lighthizer


April 2004

This past year, the Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT) celebrated the fourth anniversary of the merger that gave birth to the organization. I think readers of The Civil War News will agree that it has been an exciting four years for the battlefield preservation movement.

Most of you will recall that the merger was the result of an amicable agreement between the two largest Civil War battlefield conservation organizations:the Civil War Trust (CWT) and the Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites (APCWS). Both groups had a solid record of preserving battlefields and encouraging public awareness of the plight of our nation's remaining Civil War sites. However, it was nearly universally acknowledged by the trustees of both organizations that they would be far more effective as a single entity.

Four years later, the merger can be seen as a turning point in the battlefield preservation movement. Immediately following the merger, CWPT announced an unprecedented goal to save 10,000 acres in five years "" an average of 2,000 acres a year. I am pleased to announce that CWPT exceeded this goal in only four years, saving a total of 10,669 acres. When combined with the 7,512 acres previously saved by CWT and APCWS, we can now boast to having saved 18,181 acres at 87 battlefields in 19 states "" so far.

The formula for achieving this success has been remarkably simple. It is CWPT's policy to leverage the donations made by the organization's membership as much and often as possible. When an individual donates a dollar to CWPT, that dollar is doubled, tripled, or more by preservation funding available from government sources and the private sector. On average, CWPT leverages contributions 6-to-1; however, in some cases we have been able to leverage donations by as much as 56-to-1.

There are three federal programs that CWPT relies upon for leveraging purposes. They are the Civil War Battlefield Preservation Program (CWBPP), the Transportation Enhancement (TE) Program, and the Farm and Ranch-land Protection Program (FRPP). CWPT's board and staff are actively engaged in lobbying elected officials to continue these valuable programs.

CWBPP is a matching grants program that is administered by American Battlefield Protection Program (an arm of the National Park Service). The program requires a match of at least 50 percent. Since CWBPP was established in 1998, more than 11,000 acres of battlefield land have been saved from development. With passage of the Civil War Battlefield Preservation Act of 2002, the program is appropriated annually by Congress. Most recently, President Bush has request $5 million for CWBPP in his FY 2005 budget.

The TE Program provides matching grants to state and local governments from money made available through the federal highway trust fund. The program requires at least a 20 percent non-federal match, which means that a full 80 percent of each grant is paid for by government sources. The TE program first became available in 1991 as part of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA), and then again in 1998 as part of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21). Congress is currently considering another six-year authorization of the TE program. Twelve states currently use the TE program for battlefield preservation.

FRPP is the new kid on the block. The program requires at least a 50 percent non-federal match for permanent conservation easements on working farms. This program was first established in 1996, but it wasn't until 2002 that grants became available for historically significant farmland. Since then, FRPP has since been used to protect 1,343 acres of historic farmland in five states, including property at Wilson's Creek, Missouri; Gettysburg, Pennsylvania; and Kernstown, Virginia.

Partnerships have also played a key role in CWPT's efforts to preserve battlefields. Two of our most successful partnerships occurred in the past 12 months. The first, a campaign to save 685 acres at Mine Run, Virginia, saw CWPT working hand-in-hand with the Piedmont Environmental Council "" one of the most effective conservation groups in the Old Dominion.

The second, a campaign to save the 45-acre Shea Farm on East Cavalry Field at Gettysburg, involved four other groups, including the Land Conservancy of Adams County, the Adams County Agricultural Preservation Board, the Conservation Fund, and Friends of the National Parks at Gettysburg.

Our partnerships do not always translate into the immediate protection of battlefield land, although all of them contribute significantly to the preservation cause. Perhaps our most publicized partnership role has been as one of the leading member groups in the Coalition to Save Chancellorsville Battlefield. Since its creation in July 2002, the Chancellorsville Coalition has done a remarkable job in defeating two of the major threats to the battlefield. CWPT is hoping that the newly formed Morris Island Coalition will be similarly successful in its effort to protect Morris Island outside Charleston, S. C.

Of course, none of the preservation efforts would have been possible without the generosity of our members. CWPT members have consistently and enthusiastically responded to appeals requesting money to "buy dirt." Even after the tragedy of 9/11, when most nonprofit organizations were experiencing a drop in contributions, CWPT members continued to give generously. In fact, one of our most successful appeals, a request for funds to save the Araby Farm at Monocacy battlefield in Maryland, was made just a month after the terrorist attacks in New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

CWPT members are not only generous "" they are numerous too. At the time of the merger, the combined membership of CWT and APCWS stood at 22,000 members nationwide. Today, CWPT has more than 50,000 members "" more than double the number at the time of the merger. And that figure continues to climb.

However, despite a record of success, CWPT's board and staff recognize that much more needs to be done. We have undertaken an effort to digitally map and identify the remaining battlefields of the Civil War. The program, known as CWPT's Vanguard Project, allows us to pro-actively seek out and acquire core battlefield land before it is put up for sale. By using this system, we can go out and buy land before the price rises beyond our reach.

The system has been very effective in identifying threatened battlefield land in Dinwiddie County (near Petersburg, Va.); in the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania region; at Mansfield, La.; and at Averasboro and Bentonville, N.C.

The Vanguard Project has also enabled CWPT to take a fresh look at how many acres of hallowed ground need to be preserved in the coming years. The mapping sys-tem, when weighed against the of the results of the 1993 Civil War Sites Advisory Commission report, is giving preservationists the first comprehensive look at the status of America's battlefields in more than a decade. The numbers, we discovered, are staggering.

The good news is that 108,000 acres of battlefield land have been protected since 1864. Most of this land has been saved by federal and state agencies. Only about 22,000 acres have been saved by nonprofit groups like CWPT.

The bad news is that another 280,000 acres of core battlefield land has yet to be saved. Of this amount, we calculate that approximately 10,000 to 11,000 acres are lost to sprawl every year. When put in this context, what CWPT and other preservation groups have been able to accomplish has been good "" but not good enough.

In order to reverse this disturbing trend, CWPT is about to embark on a national capital campaign to accelerate its preservation efforts. Although the campaign won't be publicly announced for several weeks, its goal will be to raise $25 million for battlefields in the next five years. This will result in the protection of 25,000 acres of hallowed ground by 2009, enabling us to better stem the inexorable tide that is sweeping away our battlefields.

Sadly, CWPT will never be at a loss for preservation opportunities. Urban sprawl continues its relentless expansion into areas once undisturbed by commercial development. Despite our efforts and upcoming capital campaign, more irreplaceable battlefield land will undoubtedly be lost during the next 12 months. However, with the irrepressible generosity and support of the Civil War community, I am certain we can make unprecedented progress toward preserving America's remaining battlegrounds.

For more information about our organization and its efforts to protect battlefield land, please visit us online at www.civilwar.org.

O. James Lighthizer has been president of the Civil War Preservation Trust since its creation in November 1999. Prior to joining CWPT, he was Transportation Secretary for the State of Maryland, where he pioneered the use of Transportation Enhancements for

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