Kentucky should tap federal preservation dollars with House Bill 319

Published 11:17 am Thursday, February 27, 2020


The Advocate-Messenger

We think House Bill 319 is a no-brainer for Kentucky.

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The legislation, which is primarily sponsored by Danville’s state Rep. Daniel Elliott, would create the Kentucky Battlefield Preservation Fund, giving the state access to a pool of millions of dollars at the federal level that can be used to help buy and preserve historic battlefield sites.

HB 319, which passed the House without opposition this week, would not necessarily come with any funding from the state for the new fund. Whether or not the state should invest in preserving its historic sites can be debated another time. this legislation by itself doesn’t have to cost taxpayers anything.

But it does allow organizations such as the American Battlefield Trust to have their preservation funds matched by federal dollars, meaning more historic land can be saved.

That means in exchange for essentially nothing, Kentucky can get back more federal tax dollars than it gets now. The economics alone make it obvious this bill should be passed into law.

But there are also numerous benefits to saving historic, undeveloped land that should be considered.

History buffs will tell you it’s important to preserve these special places because it is sometimes the best way to ensure we continue to learn from our past and do not repeat mistakes.

Educators will tell you that field trips to historic locations can be extremely impactful on students’ learning.

Environmentally-minded people will tell you keeping the land green and natural is essential to the future vitality of our community, nation and planet.

Outdoor and recreation enthusiasts will tell you that preserved parks are a great attractor to people like them.

Tourism advocates will tell you the local economy can reap huge benefits from those people who will visit a park for its recreational opportunities and/or its history.

But none of that can happen if the land isn’t preserved.

Development often progresses based on a very different set of profit-minded priorities — and that’s not a problem when it happens in appropriate places. But many pieces of historically important land have been lost over the years because development wasn’t done in a historically or environmentally appropriate manner.

Nothing about how developers develop is going to change any time soon, so for those who want to preserve the values and activities listed above, it is important to act now to save as much of this historically important land as possible.

Perryville Battlefield is perhaps the luckiest of any historic battlefield — it is the most preserved battlefield in the nation at about 90% — and there’s still the potential for 100% of it to be preserved.

HB 319 would help Perryville and every historic battlefield and Underground Railroad site in Kentucky be as beneficial as possible for their local communities’ history, education, environment and economy. What’s not to love?