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A House Divided
Posted at 11:38 AM ET, 06/06/2011

Robert Lee Hodge: Have we preserved enough Civil War sites?

Often the critics are the people who have financially invested in historic property they want to develop. Rarely is there a non-financial motive in trying to stop the protection of a historic site. Local government is habitually the lynch pin to saving or destroying historic resources, and sadly often the statusquo is to build. One example of this was when the Frederick County , Va. Board of Supervisors voted in favor of the expansion of a quarry right in the heart of the Cedar Creek battlefield in 2008.

As our population expands serious questions must be asked about how we are planning and zoning. When you really dig into the preservation crisis one quickly realizes there is not much time left.

Preservation is an interesting debate as to who we are and what we value. Protection was something I never thought about until I moved to Virginia in 1991. When I visited Manassas and the Wilderness battlefields, I saw the plight of these parks. They became symbols to look into the modern world. We have a population explosion that nobody is, or can, address. My core feeling is that land needs to be protected for cultural, environmental and agrarian reasons.

We cannot expect government to fix this issue without our advocacy. Sometimes tough economic and social issues revolve around protecting historic green space - land rights, government power, lack of financial resources to protect historic sites, immigration, quality of life, habitat, race, air quality, ecosystems, defining culture, family values, and so on.

Our historic resources are traditionally underfunded and underutilized because the potential these outdoor social and military classrooms offer is not realized. The truth is the battlefields are diamonds in the rough. They are also becoming islands of green within a sea of concrete. Less than ten percent of our Civil War battlefields are protected.

While the opportunity is still there, we must act. If we care about American memory, if we care about the war that ended slavery, if we care about how that conflict changed government, if we care to learn about the ultimate in civic sacrifice (giving your life for a cause), if we care about quality of life and habitat, if we care about the dangers of poor planning and zoning then we must act. Rapid growth at Manassas, Fredericksburg, Richmond and hundreds of other examples tell us we are losing not only historic green space at an alarming rate, we are losing the family farm and forests that helped define America.

Our census information tells us we have little time to waste.

By Robert Lee Hodge  |  11:38 AM ET, 06/06/2011

 
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