Congress’ Public Lands Package a Victory for America’s Cultural Heritage
Statement by Paul Edmondson, interim president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation
President Trump signed a public lands legislative package (S.47 - the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act) today with significant impacts on our nation’s cultural heritage including; expanding and re-designating Ocmulgee National Monument in Georgia and the Reconstruction Era National Monument in South Carolina as national historical parks; reauthorizing a federal program that funds preservation projects at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), and permanently reauthorizing the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The following is a statement from Paul Edmondson, interim president and CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation:
“This package of public lands bills represents an important victory in preserving programs and places of great cultural importance to our nation, such as Ocmulgee National Monument, a land rich in meaning and spiritual significance to several Native American tribes; LWCF, which has enabled the preservation of lands and landmarks where our human history is written; historic sites that reveal important and difficult stories of the Reconstruction Era, and HBCU campuses, which are integral to the story of equality, civil rights, and higher education in our country.
“Passage of this legislative package speaks to the power of historic preservation to transcend party lines and unite lawmakers through a shared appreciation for our country’s rich heritage and the places that illuminate our diverse and complicated histories. We commend the many members of Congress who played key roles in advancing the individual legislation to this point and thank the many citizens and partner groups we worked with for years, in some cases, to help advocate for this outcome.”
About the Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park Boundary Revision Act
Designated in 1934, the 702-acre Ocmulgee National Monument on the Ocmulgee River near Macon is considered sacred to members of the Muscogee Creek Nation and five additional native tribes who called the area home for more than 17,000 years. The national monument contains multiple ceremonial mounds and earthworks dating from the Mississippian period, including the only spiral staircase mound known to exist in North America. Passage of this legislation expands the current monument from 702 acres to 2,800 acres and re-designate it as Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park. It also authorizes National Park Service to undertake a resources study to explore the protection of lands considered sacred to the Muscogee while creating new opportunities in Middle Georgia for recreational hunting, fishing, and camping.
About the Reconstruction Era National Historical Park Act
President Obama designated the Reconstruction Era National Monument in South Carolina in 2017.This legislation expands the boundaries of the monument and re-designates it as a national historical park.It also directs the National Park Service (NPS) to establish the Reconstruction Era National Historic Network, which would link existing units and programs of the NPS related to the history of the Reconstruction Era, as well as the properties and programs of other federal, state, local, and private entities that would apply to join the network.
About the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Historic Preservation Program
HBCUs, bastions for African American academic achievement, scholarship and community, have long been faced with historic preservation needs that outstrip their available resources. From Hampton University to Howard University, Morgan State University to Morehouse College, HBCUs reflect the determination of generations of black students to receive a quality education, even in the face of profound discrimination. HBCU alumni include prominent figures in American history such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Booker T. Washington, Zora Neale Hurston, Thurgood Marshall, George Washington Carver, and many more. The public lands package contains language to reauthorize the HBCU Historic Preservation Program of the National Park Service, which has provided essential funds to the rehabilitation of iconic buildings on those campuses since 1998.
About the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF)
This federal program, which had expired on September 30, was permanently reauthorized as part of the public lands package. LWCF is one of America’s most important conservation, recreation and preservation programs, providing funding to protect some of our country’s most significant historic and cultural landscapes, such as Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania, Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park in Atlanta, Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site in Topeka, and Canyons of the Ancients National Monument in Colorado.