Preserving Virginia’s historical and natural landmarks

Column by U.S. Sen. Jim Webb

One of my highest priorities in the Senate is to preserve Virginia’s abundant natural, historical and cultural resources. As we approach the height of the summer travel season, I am pleased to report that we have enjoyed several significant accomplishments.

Earlier this month, legislation I cosponsored with Sen. John Warner designating Virginia’s Journey Through Hallowed Ground region as a National Heritage Area was signed into law, making it the one of 40 regions in America to receive this important designation. This historic area spans 175 miles from Gettysburg to Charlottesville; including Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia.

The Journey Through Hallowed Ground region is home to some of the nation’s most notable and historic landmarks, including Monticello, Montpelier and Manassas here in Virginia. This area encompasses eight presidential homes or sites, 15 national Historic Landmarks, 47 historic districts and the largest collection of Revolutionary War sites and Civil War battlefields in the nation.

The federal designation of The Journey Through Hallowed Ground region as a National Heritage Area will promote tourism, spur local economies, and help to preserve the region for future generations. Additionally, the area will be affiliated with the National Park Service and receive financial and technical assistance to aid in heritage tourism and educational programs.

In an additional effort to showcase Virginia’s historical assets, I introduced legislation in May to begin the process that will direct the U.S. secretary of the interior to conduct a study on the feasibility of establishing a Northern Neck Heritage Area. Sen. Warner joined me in cosponsoring this bill. Virginia’s Northern Neck is steeped in history, containing the birthplaces of three presidents, plantation homes, and state parks.

Last year, I also cosponsored the Virginia Ridge and Valley Act, along with Sen. Warner and Congressman Rick Boucher. This legislation would designate more than 10,000 acres of the Jefferson National Forest as National Scenic Areas and nearly 43,000 acres of the forest as wilderness or wilderness study areas. I hope the Senate will pass this legislation by the end of this year. If enacted, it would safeguard some of Virginia’s most pristine public lands, and encourage ecotourism and outdoor recreational activities in Southwest Virginia.

With the arrival of summer, I encourage all Virginians to explore the rich historical and natural sites right in their backyard. Virginia has much to offer to residents and tourists alike. I look forward to working to preserve the great historical and natural sites of our state.

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