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Bill would protect Virginia battlefields.

Unprotected Civil War sites in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley would become part of the National Park System under a bill now before Congress.

As development accelerates around the valley's battlefields, the legislation, sponsored by Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), would give them permanent protection. The measure is also meant to boost area tourism. "This was truly a grassroots effort--landowners, government officials, and preservationists all had a voice in drafting the bill," said Bruce Craig, NPCA Northeast regional director.

The proposed park seeks to commemorate two important Civil War campaigns in the valley--Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson's 1862 campaign and the 1864 campaign in which Union general Philip Sheridan set fire to the valley, which served as the breadbasket of the Confederacy.

A 1992 National Park Service study of 15 battlefields in the Shenandoah Valley noted that while overall they retain "a remarkable degree of integrity," few are protected. Threats "arise almost exclusively from new residential, commercial, or industrial construction on or adjacent to battlefield land," it found. The valley's population is rising, and interstate highways have spawned fastgrowing commercial strips.

Preservation of Civil War sites could create 1,600 jobs in the valley by boosting tourism, according to a 1991 study by Virginia Polytechnic Institute.

The legislation would establish a commission made up of local landowners and officials, preservationists, and business people. After public hearings, the commission would recommend the exact lands to be preserved. The commission would also work to protect historic lands through cooperative agreements with landowners and planning grants to local governments.
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Title Annotation:civil war battlefields in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley; U.S. House of Representatives
Publication:National Parks
Date:May 1, 1993
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