Jim Campi, spokesman for Civil War Preservation Trust was good enough to entertain twenty questions from this blogger and I will be sharing my questions and his answers this week without edits or comment. Hat tip to Eric Wittenberg for facilitating this exchange.
DR: Are alliances with local ACW groups temporary or permanent?
JC: CWPT prefers its partnerships with local preservation groups to be long-lasting, not temporary. Because we are a small organization, we need local groups to be our “eyes and ears” in a community, keeping us informed of threats to a battlefield and potential land acquisition opportunities. Without a permanent relationship, too many preservation opportunities would fall between the cracks.
DR: Does CWPT take positions on state and federal battlefield management policies?
CWPT generally tries to shy away from battlefield management issues, primarily because they can impact our efforts to encourage further funding for battlefield preservation on Capitol Hill and elsewhere. But we have been known to take a position on occasion. For instance, just last year we came out in support of timber cutting to restore battlefields to their 1860s appearance.
DR: If CWPT had an unlimited budget, how would it spend the funds?
JC: If we had substantially more money that we do now, CWPT would almost certainly use it to buy up additional battlefield land in high-growth areas – such as central Virginia, middle Tennessee, and the Atlanta suburbs – before prices escalated even more. Right now, with our limited resources, CWPT and other preservation groups are fighting the clock to save significant parcels in regions such as these.
DR: Ideally, by whom or by what agency and at what level should battlefields be managed?
JC: Ultimately, CWPT’s goal is to own as little battlefield land as possible. We want to turn the our properties over to a responsible governmental entity so the money that is currently be used to maintain them can be used to purchase more land.
When it makes sense to do so (for instance, when we own land adjacent to a national battlefield), we try to turn over land to NPS to maintain. In other instances, it makes more sense to turn over the property to state or local governments, or sometimes to local groups (although this is rare). Before turning over any property, we always put restrictions on its use so it can never be developed.
DR: Is re-enactment an appropriate use of saved battlefield land?
In really depends on the scale of the reenactment. Small reenactments, or tacticals, can be very positive for preservation – because reenactors are often willing to donate money for the opportunity to reenact on a real battlefield. For instance, last year a small group of reenactors staged an event on our Payne’s Farm property on the Mine Run Battlefield in Orange County, Va. Thanks to an aggressive fundraising campaign, the participants were able to raise more than $10,000 for preservation.
However, CWPT tends not to support large reenactments on actual battlefield land, primarily because they can leave scars on a battlefield that last for years. If the ground is soft from rain, the large trucks that are often used to haul horses, cannons and gear can literally “turf” a battlefield. As stewards of battlefield land, we believe it is the organization’s mission to prevent such ill effects.
You can find earlier installments of this series here:
Part 1 * Part 2 * Part 3