SATURDAY | About this time every year the Civil War Preservation Trust issues its report called America's Most Endangered Battlefields. It usually gets a lot of press, especially at the local level (where a particular battlefield is local).

The report is a picture-laden brochure; each of 15 pages addresses a particular battlefield and each battlefield gets about 220 words of commentary. (A page of typewriter script would run about 350 words).

The commentary for a site is divided between battle history and current news. The history in these recaps is not particularly good and the threat analysis in the news is foggy, generally lacking key data like local planning info, decisionmaking schedules, legal status, and grassroots contacts. Instead of modern battlefield maps showing parcels they are trying to save, the Trust has filled its brochure with cutesy antique battle diagrams.

Here's some "helpful" language from the Wilson's Creek entry:

If approved, the 2,333-acre development would encroach on battlefield land southwest of the park. [How and where?] In addition, the project will likely serve as a magnet for further sprawl west of the battlefield. [So what? Is the CWPT spending money outside battlefields to stop sprawl? By whose authority?]

How does these little nuggets add up to land being "most endangered?" What are the criteria? There are none. The threats are not analyzed - there is no framework for that. Nor are endangered sites ranked by threat - they are listed alphabetically.

* Why has rescue failed up until now?

* What will it take to succeed?

* How do we define success?

* Which local groups have websites?

The inadequacy of CWPT's annual report is almost unbelievable. As you work through the material you get the sense of an organization going through the motions to secure enough legitimacy to enable its management to do what it wants to do, on the battlefield or off.

I see the Trust's management is organizing members to clean up its land holdings on March 27. Suggestion. Clean up your management first, then police the land.