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MONDAY, MARCH 7, 2005
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EDITORIAL

Bush cutting into funds to preserve our battlefields

President Bush's austerity programs are going further than his ideas for a new Social Security system and changes to Medicare. They're cutting into funds that are used for cultural advancement, not war.

The money crunch is threatening something many hold near and dear — historic battlefields. There's little money left now to help support historic preservation.

This should be of concern to everyone in North Alabama. There are still a few battlefield sites that should be preserved from urban sprawl.

Much in this area has already been encompassed by growth. Somerville Road, for example, was a main thoroughfare for both Confederate and Union troops during the civil war. The Old State Bank in downtown Decatur changed hands several times during those troubled times, although its future is ensured.

But many areas remain vulnerable.

A recent study shows that development is devouring an acre of history every hour. If something isn't done, and soon, much that hasn't been protected will be lost to future generations.

"This generation will decide what is saved and what is not saved," said James Lighthizer, president of the Civil War Preservation Trust.

At the current rate, Lighthizer says it will take only a decade — two at most — for the remaining historic battlefields to be lost. The trust released last week its list of the 10 most threatened sites, scattered from southern Missouri to northern Virginia. None was in Alabama.

But, more than 100 others could easily have made the list.

The solution, of course, is money. Developers usually win the battle when pitted against preservation groups because of the money advantage.

The preservation fights should, however, be carefully chosen. While most appreciate and support preservation, the same people also can see advantages in subdivisions, shopping malls, golf courses and other commercial endeavors, along with such public projects as highway construction.

Efforts to save land as hallowed battlegrounds should be restricted to just that, battlefields and not every area where troops skirmished or had an encampment.

If all property is considered, much of the land in Morgan, Lawrence and Limestone counties would be eligible for the preservation list, and that's unreasonable.

We applaud the Civil War Preservation Trust's efforts. The more major sites they can save today, the more future generations will know about the past.

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