Late in the afternoon on Tuesday, February 12, 2019, the U.S. Senate passed a package of Public Lands bills by a vote of 92 to 8. Many of the bill provisions will have a positive, far-ranging impact on our country’s historic and cultural resources.
Included in the package were bills related to several of our highest preservation priorities that the National Trust has worked on for many years, such as:
- Reauthorizing the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), one of America’s most important conservation and recreation programs. LWCF has invested more than $550 million to add specifically to our nation’s historic and cultural parks managed by the National Park Service, and many millions more to add lands to our national parks and other public lands that tell diverse stories of our nation’s history.
- Re-designating the Ocmulgee National Monument in Macon, Georgia, as a national historical park and expanding its boundaries, bringing greater protections to a naturally and culturally significant landscape for several Native American tribes.
- Reauthorizing a program that provides preservation funding to Historically Black Colleges and Universities. HBCUs are places where the stories of equality, civil rights, and higher education in our country have been written. HBCUs face preservation needs that outstrip their available resources, and reauthorization of this vital program means the continuation of a program that has provided essential funds to the rehabilitation of iconic buildings on HBCU campuses since 1998.
- Re-designating the Reconstruction Era National Monument in South Carolina as a national historical park and expanding its boundaries, bringing greater attention and resources to a too-often overlooked chapter of history. These places will also be included in a new national network of Reconstruction Era sites, serving to better illuminate the post-Civil War period when formerly enslaved African Americans became full and free citizens.
Other provisions in the package that the National Trust supported and worked on include establishing a national monument for the home of Civil Rights icons Medgar and Myrlie Evers, technical corrections to the African American Civil Rights Network legislation, and protections at Shiloh National Military Park and Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park.
This package of bills advanced to the House of Representatives and is expected to pass during floor consideration sometime after the February congressional recess. We could not have had the success without the support of advocates in the preservation community like you.