The Battle of McDowell

1862 - 2005

“…the federal government took our belongings and our ancestors’ lives; now they want to do it again, only this time they want to worry the people to death…The National Parks already own too much land that is not properly cared for now. The federal government doesn’t need to go further in debt to deprive landowners of their property rights.” —Virginia Senator Frank W. Nolen, January 3, 1992

Most Americans understand the meaning of heritage. Those of us who own land having historic significance are proud of it. We believe we have the right to live on it and use it, but we want to use it wisely. We try to protect the historic values and we enjoy sharing our knowledge of history with others who have a common interest.

We should be proud of our ancestors and of their accomplishments. Their efforts to build and improve our communities and our nation are a part of our history worth honoring and preserving. Studying and appreciating that heritage of hard work, sacrifice and independent thinking is an important part of the ‘glue’ which helps bind Americans together in a free and prosperous society. Our heritage, based on respect for Life, Liberty and Property, serves as a guide for us and for our children. General Lee cautioned, “A nation which does not remember what it was yesterday does not know where it is today.”

But does the wholesale federal acquisition of tens of thousands of acres of private land have anything to do with the preservation of history and heritage? A question I am often asked, not only here in Highland, but by people across Virginia, is “Why is the government buying all this land; why do they need it; what are they planning to do with it?”

If the lessons learned from history are a guide, the answer should be obvious. From Biblical times to the present, land has been the source of wealth and power. When only a few people own or control the use of land—the natural resources such as minerals, water, timber, oil and grazing land—they control the wealth of a nation and, as a result, they control the people. The Prophet Michah warned, “Woe to them that devise iniquity, and work evil upon their beds! When the morning is light, they practice it, because it is in the power of their hand. And they covet fields, and seize them; and houses, and take them away: so they oppress a man and his house, even a man and his heritage.” Isaiah likewise warned, “Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field, till there be no room, and ye be made to dwell alone in the midst of the land!” Is human nature any different now than in Michah’s day?

The Founders fought a War for Independence from a king who owned and controlled the land. Men like James Madison, Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry wanted the individual citizens to own the land and to be free from control by the king, the government and special-interest corporations. Madison warned, “There is an evil which ought to be guarded against in the indefinite accumulation of property from the capacity of holding it in perpetuity…The power of all corporations ought to be limited in this respect. The growing wealth acquired by them never fails to be a source of abuses.” The Founders knew freedom depends on private ownership of land. Modern ‘preservationists’ ignore real history and the words of the men who wrote it.

What is happening in McDowell is little different than what is happening at other “historic battlefields” and in hundreds of rural communities across America. It has almost nothing to do with preserving history. “Historic preservation” is a straw man. It is a blind, a mask concealing from the average American of good will what ‘preservationists’ are really doing.

Control of people and their property is cloaked in words of deception—nice-sounding phrases which can be twisted and used to manipulate people.

Who could be opposed to something as wonderful sounding as a National Heritage Area or a National Historic District? Who could possibly be opposed to saving endangered species? Why would anyone be against keeping our streams and rivers clean? Why would people not want to keep our highways beautiful by making them Scenic Byways? Don’t we need to protect more Wilderness Areas and have more National Parks for our children? And who could be so hard-hearted as to be against “preserving pristine battlegrounds for future generations?”

The words, “Historic preservation,” are used in much the same way as ‘scenic byways,’ or ‘preserving endangered species,’ or ‘protecting watersheds.’ The words are about power and money, and the greed of a few powerful people. The words are about controlling people and their land—the wealth of our natural resources by government bureaucrats and agencies, and by the special-interest “partner” organizations, funded by government and who do their bidding.

The Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation (SVBF) is just such an organization. Stripped of all the fine-sounding words and all public-relations gimmickry, it is little more than a well-dressed, sugar-tongued, real estate agent for the National Park Service (NPS).

The SVBF is the official “Management Entity” for the Shenandoah Valley National Battlefields Historic District. It is the “private corporation” arm of the US Department of Interior National Park Service. A major portion of the funds it uses for land acquisition, in McDowell and for other battlefields in the Valley, comes from the NPS. It is given “technical assistance” and is guided by NPS staff. It is the ‘brain-child’ born of the marriage of the NPS and the preservationist elite.

The eight-county National Historic District includes all of Highland County and is officially designated as a National Heritage Area under the direct oversight of the NPS. The Battlefields Foundation claims it is a “private, non-profit corporation” which is “independent” of the NPS. A close look at the “Management Plan” and the legislation which created it and funds it belies any claim it is “private” or “independent.”

“The foundation of their institutions—political, municipal, and social—must be broken up and relaid, or all our blood and treasure have been spent in vain. This can only be done by treating and holding them as a conquered people. Then all things which we can desire to do follow with logical and legitimate authority.”—Thaddeus Stevens (1792-1868), from the New York Herald, December 13th, 1865. Stevens was one of the most vicious Federal Reconstruction politicians. His almost insane hatred for Southern history and heritage spawned a legacy of conquest, control and subjugation which lives on in the NPS and our nation’s Capitol. “We have a subdued enemy in our power; we have all their property and lives at our disposal....we have a right to seize the property…and ten times more. You behold at your feet a conquered foe, an atrocious enemy.”—Speech of Thaddeus Stevens in the US House of Representatives, March 19, 1867


Above: overlay of the official NPS McDowell battlefield boundary on a USGS Topographic map. The core area/study area in McDowell covers 3,131 acres. For Highland County, the total is 4,539 acres.

About 15 years ago, the McDowell battlefield was “surveyed,” “studied” and “inventoried” by the National Park Service. Few, if any landowners were told what was happening. The “core area/study area” was mapped and the boundary lines were drawn by the NPS, just as was done at each of the other battlefields in the Valley. The documentation is there for anyone to see. These are not opinions, but facts from NPS and SVBF documents.

For the National Park Service and its “private, non-profit corporate partners” such as the Battlefields Foundation, all the “inventoried” private land in the battlefield “core area/study area” is prime “assets” to be acquired with funding from the NPS and other federal and state agencies.

If history is a guide, once the Battlefields Foundation and its “partners,” such as the Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT) which now owns 126 acres of the battlefield, acquire enough land in and around McDowell, in the “core area” of the battlefield; once they have the necessary “critical mass” of land, they will turn it over to the NPS to be included or managed in a Battlefields National Park system. This could take a number of years. As SVBF Executive Director Howard Kittell stated about their land acquisition goals, “It’s all a very slow process.” Howard Kittell and those who work with him are patient people. Their long-range Management Plan is published and can be easily understood by anyone with a little common sense who is willing to research the facts. As long as funding is allowed to continue, they will continue to purchase more private land.

In Virginia, every inch of ground is “historic.” Just as the boundary lines of National Parks and “historic battlefields” have been “expanded,” the NPS, the Battlefields Foundation and their “partners” will look for and find reasons to expand the boundaries of the McDowell battlefield.

The primary mission of the Civil War Preservation Trust is to “buy dirt”… The success of the Civil War Battlefield Preservation Program has been remarkable. More than 13,000 acres of battlefield land outside NPS boundaries have been acquired from willing sellers as a result of the program…To date…$26 million [has been] appropriated by Congress…The Civil War Preservation Trust is the principal nonprofit advocate for this program, as well as the primary nonprofit source of non-federal matching funds. In addition, the Civil War Preservation Trust utilizes two other federal matching grants programs for battlefield preservation: the Transportation Enhancement Program [ISTEA/TEA21] and the Farm and Ranchland Protection Program… Nearly $20 million in [ISTEA/TEA21] grants has been allocated for Civil War battlefield preservation since 1992… Since 2002, $1.3 million in FRPP grants has been awarded to save 1,343 acres of Civil War battlefield farmland in five states… Mr. Chairman, preserving Civil War battlefields – both inside and outside National Park Service boundaries – is a task that cannot be left to future generations. Time is against us. We must act now.—Civil War Preservation Trust President James Lighthizer, before the House Government Reform Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources, Monday, March 14, 2005

The Danger of National Heritage Areas

Most Highland County residents don’t know what a National Heritage area is, and were never told the National Park Service had included the county in a National Heritage Area (NHA) in the mid 1990s. Today, most are still unaware of it. The real meaning of inclusion in a NHA was not explained to Highland landowners. The ‘historic preservationists’ knew exactly what they were doing, but it is doubtful even the county supervisors fully understood what was happening.

The federal ‘carrots’—tourism, honorary recognition, funding, economic assistance and grants—were dangled before the county, but use of the ‘stick’ was down-played or never mentioned. County supervisors trotted right along, trying to get at the ‘carrot’—not understanding who was sitting in the saddle pulling at the reins. The federal “partners”—the Historical Society, the Chamber of Commerce and the Valley Conservation Council—prodded the horse along.

County supervisors have consistently approved the federal funding for NHA ‘historic preservation’ projects in McDowell. The result of federal land acquisition funding has become clear, but many local residents still do not understand the county supervisors have supported it from the start.

A NHA is a form of Regional Government where local decision making power is weakened or handed over to unelected agencies and officials. In a NHA, the US Department of Interior National Park Service exercises tremendous power and control by funding its “local partners” such as the Highland Chamber of Commerce and the Highland Historical Society who work behind-the-scenes to influence county planning and zoning decisions. The leaders of both organizations promote the ‘preservationist’ agenda and they actively seek more and more funding from federal agencies. Diane Klein, Carolyn Pohowsky and Don Hower are members of the Comprehensive Plan Review Committee, now meeting to amend the Highland Comprehensive Plan. They all favor more federal funds for ‘historic preservation.’ Pohowsky worked to turn US Rt. 250 into a Scenic Byway. Hower worked to kill a major road improvement project.

“Heritage Areas are not innocuous designations bestowed upon local communities simply for the purpose of national recognition. Rather, they are land use mandates foisted upon property owners in the name of preservation. Quite simply: Heritage Areas have boundaries, and those boundaries have consequences for property owners unfortunate enough to reside within them.” — Testimony of Peyton Knight, US Senate Subcommittee on National Parks, June 24, 2004

As one strategy, preservationists lobby for state or federal acquisition of your property, regardless of whether you want to give up your land or your way of life. They follow an almost standard formula: they decide behind closed doors what they want, then mount a publicity campaign claiming that your land is “threatened” (at root because it is privately owned), that it is “nationally significant” (because they describe it in emotional, poetic terms), and that it ought to be “protected” as a park for the “common good” (which is what they call displacing one group of people—the owners—for the benefit of another more affluent and politically powerful group—themselves). That’s the direct approach. A more indirect approach uses land “registry” programs, which purport to merely “list” sites in private ownership. Registry programs do not always authorize land acquisition or regulatory prohibitions through the program itself, but are referenced by other State or Federal laws—either already on the books or planned for the future after private owners are locked into the program. This provides some measure of control and, preservationists hope, buys time for future action. —“National Natural Landmarks: Takings by Quicksand,” Erich Veyhl, The Land Rights Letter, February 1991.

National Park Service National Heritage Areas

Illinois & Michigan National Heritage Corridor  IL  Aug 24, 1984
John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor  MA, RI  Nov 10, 1986
Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor  PA  Nov 18, 1988
Path of Progress Heritage Tour Route  PA  Nov 19, 1988
Cane River National Heritage Area  LA  Nov 2, 1994
Quinebaug & Shetucket Rivers Valley National Heritage Corridor  CT, MA  Nov 2, 1994
Cache La Poudre River Corridor  CO  Oct 19, 1996
Augusta Canal National Heritage Area  GA  Nov 12, 1996
Essex National Heritage Area  MA  Nov 12, 1996
Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area  NY  Nov 12, 1996
National Coal Heritage Area  WV  Nov 12, 1996
Ohio & Erie National Heritage CanalWay  OH  Nov 12, 1996
Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area  PA  Nov 12, 1996
Shenandoah Valley Battlefields National Historic District  VA  Nov 12, 1996
Silos & Smokestacks  IA  Nov 12, 1996
South Carolina National Heritage Corridor  SC  Nov 12, 1996
Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area  TN  Nov 12, 1996
Wheeling National Heritage Area  WV  Oct 11, 2000
Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area  AZ  Oct 19, 2000
Lackawanna Heritage Valley  PA  Nov 6, 2000
MotorCities National Heritage Area  MI  Nov 6, 2000
Schuylkill River National Heritage Area  PA  Nov 6, 2000
Erie Canalway National Corridor  NY  Dec 21, 2000
Blue Ridge National Heritage Area  NC  Nov 10, 2003
Mississippi Gulf National Heritage Area  MS  Dec 8, 2004
National Aviation Heritage Area  OH  Dec 8, 2004
Oil Region National Heritage Area  PA  Dec 8, 2004

See: The National Park Service website

Other federal agencies, such as USDOT/VDOT through the ISTEA (TEP or TEA-21) program, target funds for land acquisitions and for other purposes connected with National Heritage Area ‘historic preservation. Here are a few local examples:

All of the funding, for these projects and others, was supported by and had to be officially approved by the Highland County Board of Supervisors. These projects and land acquisitions in McDowell would never have been possible without the supervisors’ approval.

The Next Step for National Park Service Control in McDowell:
National Historic Landmark - National Register of Historic Places

Unless Highland County completely divorces itself from the National Historic District, the next step to establishing a National Park unit will be to nominate the McDowell “core area” as part of a National Historic Landmark. The NPS and the Battlefield Foundation are fully aware of this.

“Core battlefield land at McDowell, where the most intense fighting occurred, has been determined by the NPS to be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. Together with the other nine battlefields of the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields National Historic District, McDowell is likely to be eligible for National Historic Landmark status, according to the NPS.”—The Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation, January 5, 2004

In 1960, the National Park Service created the National Historic Landmark Program to allegedly “encourage the long range preservation of nationally significant properties that illustrate or commemorate the history” of the United States. The National Park Service is in charge of identifying and approving National Landmarks.

All National Historic Landmarks are included in the National Register of Historic Places which is the official list of the Nation’s “historic properties worthy of preservation.” Some properties are recommended as “nationally significant” when they are nominated to the National Register, but before they can be designated as National Historic Landmarks, they must be evaluated by the National Park Service’s National Historic Landmark Survey, reviewed by the National Park System Advisory Board, and recommended to the Secretary of the Interior. Some properties listed in the National Register are subsequently identified by the Survey as nationally significant; others are identified for the first time during Landmark “theme studies” or other special studies such as the studies already done in McDowell during the late 1980s and 1990s. Both the National Historic Landmarks and the National Register programs are administered by the National Park Service.

In 1988 the National Parks and Conservation Association (NPCA), a legislative lobby organization working closely with the NPS, produced a 10 volume study for Congress and the NPS recommending how the NPS should be operated and expanded by millions of additional acres. A major theme in the NPCA recommendations is the accelerated use of Landmarks for the creation of new National Parks. Calling Landmarks “Ladies in Waiting,” the NPCA urged, “The candidate sites and landscapes have already been identified—they are long overdue for protection.” In other words, the NPS knows where they are, and when the time is right, they will be nominated for Landmark status.

“From the field survey and historical research, it further appears that both the 1862 Jackson campaign [including McDowell] and the 1864 Lynchburg-Early-Sheridan campaigns, as represented by their fourteen associated sites, meet National Historic Landmark (NHL) criteria. Cedar Creek already is designated a National Historic Landmark…The other sites probably would not meet NHL criteria on their own (a key factor in considering potential additions to the National Park System), although they appear to qualify for the National Register of Historic Places.”—1995 NPS study of Civil War sites in the Virginia part of the Shenandoah Valley, authorized by Public Law 101-628

Here is what happened at the Cedar Creek battlefield, a National Historic Landmark:

“An arduous, decades-long effort to protect Civil War sites in Virginias Shenandoah Valley paid off in December [2002], when the Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park became the newest unit of the National Park System…The designation was an outgrowth of the efforts of the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields National Historic District Commission, authorized by Congress in 1996 to create a management plan for the area and determine whether a component of the historic district merited addition to the National Park System. After several years of citizen involvement, the commission chose the Battle of Cedar Creek as the site within the historic district most appropriate for national park designation. Cedar Creek first received national recognition in 1969 when it was designated a National Historic Landmark. It was later included in the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields National Historic District.”—See National Parks Conservation Association Magazine, March 2003

“National Historic Landmark—1969. Part of a large National Historic District—1996. National Historical Park—December 19, 2002. It represents the first time a Historic Site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation has been included within a park. In addition, the park is embedded within the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields National Historic District, a National Heritage Area. Created on December 19, 2002, the park encompasses approximately 3,500 acres across 3 counties and includes the key partner sites of Belle Grove Plantation, Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation lands and Visitor Center, Shenandoah Valley Battlefield Foundation lands.”  See:

It’s no wonder that historic preservation efforts are beginning to generate a backlash. Preservationists were rebuffed last November by overwhelming popular opposition in their attempt to place an entire 75 square-mile section of an Ozarks river valley on the National Register of Historic Places. California Republican Rep. Wally Herger denounced the National Register of Historic Places last year for “acting with dictatorial powers and complete disregard for local communities and local people.”—James Bovard, The American Spectator, April, 1997

“Historical property ought to be treated as other property. Those who value it should be expected to pay for it and be responsible for it. They can form private nonprofit and for-profit organizations with the intention of obtaining and maintaining historical landmarks so that future generations may view the past with their own eyes. They have no claim to the use of public funds for historical preservation; historical property should never be owned, funded, maintained, or regulated by government. No one has a ‘right’ to his hobby, even if that hobby involves historical places. Mount Vernon, George Washington’s plantation, is a private historical preserve. The property was purchased in the 1850s—ironically, after both the federal government and the Commonwealth of Virginia refused—by a private organization called the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association. Mount Vernon has never used public funds, and today is the most visited historic site in the country.”Historical Preservation and the Market, Scott McPherson, June 18, 2003 See:

The McDowell battlefield as a National Park

Shrouding the goals governing what the NPS, the Battlefield Foundation, the CWPT and almost every other organization and individual working with them are doing in McDowell, is a veil of deception, secrecy, half-truths and in many cases outright falsehoods.

In a great number of instances, the Park Service was found to be trespassing and snooping around private property—evaluating it for Landmark designation without ever notifying the landowner. The most prevalent abuse occurred in Maine, where the Park Service routinely ignored its own notification rules and refused to inform landowners of pending designations. NPS claims that property owners love the Landmarks program and are eager to join. If this is true, why the deliberate secrecy? And why do so many property owners fear a Landmark designation?

In fact, the Park Service was working in collaboration with environmental organizations and land trusts, targeting private property for future Landmarks. Syndicated columnist and author Alston Chase documented several examples of Park Service misdeeds under the program. Jim Shelly, a New Mexico rancher, didn’t learn that his property was being considered for a Landmark designation until a friend noticed the nomination notification in the Federal Register. The Nature Conservancy had evaluated Mr. Shelly’s land for the Park Service without his knowledge.

Lucy Wheeler of Vermont became suspicious when she noticed mysterious survey markers on her land. NPS officials were in fact sneaking around her property and neglected to inform Ms. Wheeler because, as they reported, the subject was “already sensitive.” — Statement of J. Peyton Knight, American Policy Center, Concerning Oversight of our National Park System before the Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy, and Human Resources, United States House of Representatives, April 22, 2005

Here is a brief explanation of how the National Park Service has used the National Landmarks program to target Canaan Valley in West Virginia for a National Park:

That the government’s plans to take over the Canaan Valley have been pursued continuously at least since the mid-70’s, often without public knowledge, is further illustrated by the role of the National Park Service’s…Landmarks Program—a feeder program for Federal control which the agency misrepresents to the public as “voluntary” and an “honor” to the landowner with no adverse consequences. In 1974…the Park Service designated 15,400 acres of the Valley as a “nationally significant” Landmark without the consent of the landowners. Recent Landmark reports to Congress say that “because many privately owned tracts compose Canaan Valley, the likelihood of obtaining owner agreements for them all remains rather slim.” The Landmark program advocated Federal control of the Valley from the beginning. The Landmarks program comment on the Refuge proposal said in May, 1978 that a Landmark “Theme Study” “has recommended Canaan Valley as part of a larger unit...for study as potential new units of the National Park System. [The] plan seeks eventual acquisition of 24,000 acres comprising most of the Valley, affecting hundreds of private landowners and a recreation-dependent economy. The Valley is an established rural residential and recreational area well-known for skiing…Zinni’s 24,000 acre plan was based on a 1979 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)—which the agency insists is still legally valid and current—for a previously controversial plan to take over the Valley. The agency’s preferred “alternative” in the Final EIS advocated acquiring “through negotiations and/or condemnation, full fee title to about 28,000 acres within the Valley...This approach is the optimum for wildlife resource and ecosystem preservation...All existing developments and residences would be removed exclusive of those necessary for refuge operations. Current residents, businesses, and farms would be provided relocation assistance to areas outside of the Valley...” Whether the agency uses mass eminent domain following the model of the Cuyahoga Valley or opts for a slower approach in which owners of undeveloped land are coerced to sell, other human activity deemed by the agency to be “incompatible” is stopped and the local private economy eventually dies, the end result of eliminating people from the Canaan Valley has been clearly staked out. The EIS acknowledges that: “Social and economic impacts to Tucker County would be severe. Approximately 160 [at the time] residents and all businesses would be relocated from the Valley” and “existing residential development in Canaan Valley will be impacted as relocation occurs after purchase, easements, or life use reservations expire. Ultimately, most residential, industrial and commercial uses within the refuge boundary will be eliminated.”Plans for Federal Takeover of Canaan Valley Revived After Decades, Erich Veyhl, The Land Rights Letter, 1994

The Battlefield Foundation says it does not want to own homes and buildings in McDowell, but the Park Service has never had a problem deciding what to do with homes and buildings. The Park Service has not given up on “eliminating” the homes and people of Canaan Valley.

On March 7, 2005, West Virginia Senator Sarah M. Minear blasted a resolution proposing a study to form a new National Park. Blackwater State Park, the Blackwater Canyon, which is privately owned and not for sale, portions of Canaan Valley, portions of Monongahela National Forest, plus other private land in the area would be turned over to the NPS. Senator Minear stated:

“Now, Mr. President, there is a strong effort afoot by special interest groups to surrender a great deal of land in Tucker County and in this state to the federal government. Some call this thinking “outside the box” in dealing with the federal government -- and some even call it creative financing. Mr. President, I call it surrendering our authority and our rights to the federal government. This is also a socialist concept, Mr. President. The state seal that is hanging behind you, Mr. President, has the state’s motto on it, and it says that Mountaineers are always free. I am beginning to wonder, Mr. President, for how long will we Mountaineers be free?”

In a secretive 1999 land deal, The Highland Historical Society acquired 53 acres of “pristine battlefield,” almost entirely with federal funds. Playing on the good will of local citizens in the solicitation of public support, the society’s chairman claimed the “historic” field would be “preserved for future generations.” Most residents were unaware of the “under-the-table” sale of half of the land to the Rev. and Mrs. Les LaPrade for a new home site. At the same time, Don Hower, Highland County’s representative to, and Secretary of the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields National Historic District Commission, was pushing to add another layer of control by designating McDowell as a ‘local historic district.’ Appointed by the radical former Clinton Secretary of Interior, Bruce Babbitt, Hower believes government should dictate what landowners can do with private property. Babbitt, referring to Fifth Amendment protections of Property Rights, believes, “You can’t read the Constitution like a rule book.” (Arizona Republic July 8, 1987)

The people of McDowell and Highland have a choice…

The Battlefield Foundation is not directly accountable to the people of Highland. Its board of directors is not elected by the people of Highland and there is virtually no local control over what they do even though it is a federal government creation, operating with tax dollars. Their land acquisition planning is done behind closed doors. It follows a Congressional Management Plan established and approved by the US Department of Interior National Park Service and the preservationist elite. The SVBF and their “non-profit partners” claim they are “private” organizations, but the details of their land acquisition and financial operations are kept hidden.

The ‘preservationists’ claim to be working for your best interests—that everything is done by “voluntary” arrangement. What they do is “voluntary” only as long as no one questions them and things go their way! But when there is the slightest sign of opposition, they suddenly become angry and hostile. They claim local citizens are “dividing the community and spreading hatred.”

Until recently, when many local citizens began to raise questions, The Battlefield Foundation, The Highland Historical Society and the Chamber of Commerce never once came to the people of McDowell and said, “We’d like to buy this parcel of land with your tax dollars.” They do not ask, “How do you, the people of the McDowell community, feel about it? Do you have any objections? Will you give us your approval? Will you support us?”

They offer large sums of money to tempt people to sell land—and then claim they only work with “willing sellers.” They claim they are not driving up property assessments and local taxes.

They can be friendly and sweet and persuasive when it suits them, but they will use people to their advantage if they can, especially respected people with recognized names in the community.

The ‘preservationists’ make promises about ‘historic tourism’ helping the local economy. But where are the jobs? If a job does come along, who gets it? Almost always, the family members and friends of the preservationists get the jobs. There are always some good-hearted people who are fooled into working for them, who may get a few of the dollars taxed out of their neighbor’s pockets. Is that really helping the community?

If you truly desire to preserve the history, heritage and culture of McDowell and Highland County —for future generations;

If you want to stop the federally-funded land grab now taking place which is robbing you and your children of their land—land which will no longer be available for building homes and businesses, for agriculture, for hunting…except for the select few who have money or special connections;

If you don’t want to encourage bidding up land prices with federal money, higher and higher taxes and more controls on how you can use your land… and if you don’t want to sooner or later become one of the “willing sellers”—forced to sell your land when you or your children can’t use it the way you want and can’t afford to pay the taxes on it because there are only a few, low-paying tourist jobs;

If you don’t want to see your children move away to raise families, to see your rural post offices closed, or see your churches and your civic clubs and volunteer fire departments struggling for lack of members;

If you don’t want to happen to walk by the open window of the McDowell post office and overhear members of the local historic preservation society mocking you and degrading you or your family behind your back;

If you don’t appreciate Mr. Hower or others like him telling you, “I think the government should decide how landowners can use their land.”

The choice is yours...

I can’t tell you what to do. I can only warn you, as I have been trying to do for the past eight years, about NPS involvement and what is being planned for McDowell.

Don’t believe anything I have written here. Check the facts for yourself. Study the documents. Go to Richmond, or Manassas, or Canaan Valley, or Louisa County, or the New River Gorge, or along the Blue Ridge, or Antietam, or Waterford—or a hundred other places where the National Park Service and their “partners” have been at work. Travel around Virginia or West Virginia as I have done. Talk to the land owners, the home owners, the pastors, farmers and small business owners who have been victims of the same type of “Management Plan” now being implemented in McDowell.

But I can offer these suggestions:

Convince your family, friends and neighbors to tell your elected officials, your supervisors, Jerry Rexrode, Lee Blagg and Robin Sullenberger, members of the Planning Commission, the Board of Zoning Appeals and others, to get Highland County completely out of the Shenandoah Valley National Historic District and out of the National Park Service’s National Heritage Area.

Let Bob Goodlatte, Emmett Hanger and Chris Saxman know how you feel. If you need addresses or phone numbers, or need help contacting them, or writing them a letter, let me know.

Ask them, in the strongest possible terms, to cut all ties with the National Park Service and its real estate agent, the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation. Tell them to stop the federal funding for the Highland Historical Society and the Highland County Chamber of Commerce—and anyone else trying to buy more land or control private property with conservation easements and zoning restrictions—who use your tax dollars in the name of ‘historic preservation.’

Do it now. Do it today. Don’t ever think you can make a “compromise deal” with the preservationists. If you do, you will lose. Even though you will be opposed by wealthy, powerful special-interests who will try to buy time to wear you down; even though some of your neighbors or friends may become angry with you; if you do not act, you will lose control of your community and your county. It will no longer be yours, or your children’s. -Leo Schwartz

The old Hull house (c.1851) in McDowell, most recently the home of a local farmer, was “purchased” almost entirely with federal tax funds. It is destined to be the The Highland Historical Society’s “museum” and a SVNHD “visitor center.” One local resident bitterly remarked, “Southerners should be real proud of their federal museum. My ancestors would have run this bunch out of the county. They buy land; buy county officials with ‘grants;’ soon they’ll buy it all.” Congressman Bob Goodlatte helped secure $200,000 in federal funds for ‘building restoration’ through the National Park Service “Save America’s Treasures” program.

Quotes worth reading and thinking about:

“If the people of Highland do not want the foundation’s assistance in preserving its heritage and helping to bolster its economy there are seven other counties in the National Historic District and elsewhere who are actively courting foundation’s assistance.”—Carrington Williams, June 29, 2001, Chairman, Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation    

“We are driven by local interest to the degree if we were told to go away, we would.”—Howard Kittell, September 7, 2001, Executive Director, Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation, at a meeting in Monterey, referring to the McDowell battlefield

“A few disingenuous people there would still like to see a major road project.”—Noah Mehrkam, March 8, 2002, Director of Battlefield Preservation for the Civil War Preservation Trust, speaking about the US Rt. 250 improvement project

“I think we should make the battlefield area a historic district…all the supervisors would have to say is, we are going to make the battlefield another district. And we’re going to make the Architectural Review Board approve anything that’s built within a quarter of a mile.”— Don Hower, March 5, 1999

“As partners in this undertaking, we intend to donate to the National Park Service all our holdings at these nationally significant sites or enter into cooperative management agreements at the Service’s discretion…The National Park Service, moreover, has demonstrated its unparalleled competence as an historic site manager at hundreds of sites across the country…”— Congressional Testimony, A. Wilson Greene, President, Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites, July 25, 1994. The APCWS is now merged with the Civil War Preservation Trust. The CWPT owns 126.5 acres of the McDowell battlefield.

HISTORIC PROPERTY AT MALVERN HILL TRANSFERRED TO NATIONAL PARK SERVICE.  The Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT) and the Richmond National Battlefield Park are pleased to announce the preservation of 253 acres of battlefield ground at Malvern Hill in lower Henrico County… The National Park Service (NPS) recently closed on the property, making the transfer from CWPT official –Civil War Preservation Trust, Press Release, April 26, 2005.

“By 2002 Campbell was able to show Congress that fully 94 percent of respondents to a park study supported the boundary expansion. In September 2003 Byrd introduced legislation to expand the boundary…Another section of 131 acres lies on Loudoun Heights and includes Confederate campsites from 1862. And 177 acres on Schoolhouse Ridge was purchased for the park by the Civil War Preservation Trust.”— Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, November, 2004, Civil War News

“These battlefields are deserving of the designation of a National Park and nothing less…I am confident that these battlefields will make a very positive contribution to the Park Service preservation of this tragic chapter of our American History.”—Congressional Testimony, Senator John Warner, Virginia, original sponsor of the battlefield plan, July 25, 1994

“We recommend that the Secretary of the Interior, rather than the Commission be charged with preparing the Shenandoah Valley National Battlefields Plan…that the bill be amended in a manner that does not restrict our ability to acquire land [by condemnation]…that the National Park Service be charged with conducting a locally-based planning process to develop the...plan we know is going to enable the National Park Service to be there on a perpetual basis…”— Congressional Testimony, Jerry L. Rogers, Associate Director, National Park Service, July 25, 1994

“Senator Warner and I are indebted to those local concerned citizens who have devoted a significant portion of their time to making the Shenandoah Valley into a historical park…We believe that this bill will set a new standard for the way in which national parks will be established…I cannot overemphasize how these battlefields need the expertise of the National Park Service to ensure their preservation…We have a unified voice on the establishment of this in the National Park System.”—Congressional Testimony, Senator Charles S. Robb, July 25, 1994

“Core battlefield land at McDowell, where the most intense fighting occurred, has been determined by the NPS to be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. Together with the other nine battlefields of the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields National Historic District, McDowell is likely to be eligible for National Historic Landmark status, according to the NPS.”—The Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation, January 5, 2004

The Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation closed Dec. 15 on the purchase of a 52-acre tract at the McDowell battlefield… “This is a very significant piece of land,” said Howard Kittell… The foundation paid owner Walter Ralston $276,000 for the pastureland. Of that total, $122,500 was provided as a grant from the Center for Civil War Living History, which received funds from the filming of “Gods and Generals”…The rest of the funds came from the foundation’s annual federal [NPS] appropriation… Kittell said his foundation is eyeing a 300-acre tract that “we'd love to be able to purchase. It all depends on timing.”…Kittell said the foundation had sought $2.5 million, but was “very pleased” to get the $1.5 million… The reduction “will slow us down,” Kittell acknowledged, “but we'll look elsewhere” for money, including federal and state transportation-enhancement and conservation funds, plus private sources… The foundation now owns half a dozen parcels and is in negotiations for another 1,800 acres. “It’s all a very slow process,” Kittell said.—Civil War News, January, 2004

Mr. Lighthizer’s group [CWPT] was there because they had helped preserve a 280-acre parcel of land former National Park Service chief historian Edwin Bearss described as the “center of the donut.” For a variety of reasons, the parcel had remained in private hands for decades, even as surrounding farms and woodlands were made part of a national park. To buy the land when it came on the market, the federal government ponied up about $1.95 million. But the appropriation fell $36,000 short and there wasn’t time for the federal bureaucracy to crank out more money. “The Park Service called, and I said ‘Hell, yes!’” Mr. Lighthizer said.The Annapolis Capital, Annapolis, Md., April 26, 2005. Lighthizer has served as president of the Civil War Preservation Trust since it was formed in 1999.

To date, the Civil War Trust [now a part of the Civil War Preservation Trust] has been successful with their goals. During the past eight years, they have secured $14.8 million dollars to help preserve 6,700 acres of battlefield acreage in thirteen states. One such site to receive help from the Civil War Trust was Corinth, Mississippi. The Siege and Battle of Corinth Commission received $500,000. The funding was used to purchase several important land parcels associated with the Battle of Corinth. Recently, the U.S. Congress designated the Corinth Battlefield to become a national park.Battlefield Receives Grant Money From Civil War Preservation Trust, November 19, 1999, Raymond, Mississippi

“This is an extraordinary achievement,” remarked James Lighthizer, President of the Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT). “This community’s commitment to saving this unique part of America’s Civil War heritage is remarkable.” Kolb Farm was the scene of bitter fighting on June 22, 1864…The parcel is the only remaining corner of the intersection not protected within Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park… CWPT has pledged a “last-dollar-in” grant to make up the difference between the amount the Kolb Farm Coalition collects and the $30,000 goal.—CWPT, September 25, 2001…The Kolb Farm Coalition has raised sufficient funding to stop a service station being built on land surrounded by Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park. The Coalition funding will help purchase the property and the 4.3 acres will now be added to the Battlefield National Park. The NPS is now working…to transfer the land to into the Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park. It is hoped that the transfer to the National Park Service will take place shortly.—American Civil War, December, 2001, April, 2002

Fort Bowie National Historic Site Boundary Expansion Proposal

The NPS is seeking to expand the boundary of Fort Bowie National Historic Site in order to protect significant historic and prehistoric resources currently existing outside the present park boundary. All of the requested land lies within the boundaries of the National Historic Landmark.The relatively unaltered viewscape is one of the most important attributes of the park. The rural characteristics of the landscape and the historic scene create the necessary setting that visitors associate with the U. S. Soldiers and the Apaches who lived and fought here in the nineteenth century. Preserving the vista helps to give visitors a historic sense of Place.”Fort Bowie NHS General Management Plan, p. 31Alan Whalon, Superintendent Chiricahua NM & Fort Bowie NHS, Willcox, Arizona, April 01, 2004

“Repeated, reiterated, and emphasized by NHA advocates is that the main role of the federal government is as consultant to the other involved entities; that private property owners retain their private property rights. The NPS controls the purse strings for federal disbursements. See the incompatibility? Those with the power to fund, also hold the ultimate power to decide the circumstances under which the funding will be granted. In other words, if the federal government wants zoning laws or land use plans changed in a particular NHA area, it has a powerful means of enacting this agenda via the threat of withheld funds.” — National Heritage Areas: The war over words, by Cheryl K. Chumley, April 4, 2004

“National Heritage Areas undoubtedly lead to restrictive federal zoning and land use planning. Funding and technical assistance for Heritage Areas is administered through the National Park Service (NPS), a federal agency with a long history of hostility toward private landowners. Heritage Areas are not innocuous designations bestowed upon local communities simply for the purpose of national recognition. Rather, they are land use mandates foisted upon property owners in the name of preservation. Quite simply: Heritage Areas have boundaries, and those boundaries have consequences for property owners unfortunate enough to reside within them. Incredibly, proponents of Heritage Areas argue that despite their mission of ‘preservation,’ Heritage Areas do not influence zoning or land use planning. Yet by definition this is precisely what they do… as more and more special interest groups and local governments gather around the federal trough, but also a program that quashes property rights and local economies through restrictive federal zoning practices. The real beneficiaries of a National Heritage Areas program are conservation groups, preservation societies, land trusts and the National Park Service—essentially, organizations that are in constant pursuit of federal dollars, land acquisition, and restrictions on property rights.”—Testimony of Peyton Knight, before the Senate Subcommittee on National Parks, June 24, 2004

“The National Park Service and others will use the National Register as a bludgeon against the property owner and trample his property rights if they can. To them, your property, once listed, is just a resource. To them, it is not a home.” – Louisa County farm owner Peter Blackman, testimony before the US House Resources Committee’s National Parks Subcommittee, April 21, 2005

“At some point, a sufficient level of concern is reached along with a growing concern that voluntary, non-regulatory measures are themselves insufficient to ensure that environmental, cultural and historic resources are adequately protected against indiscriminate and inappropriate development.”—Official management plan for the Blackstone River National Heritage Corridor, prepared by the Center for Rural Massachusetts, p 56

“Mr. Chairman, it is a pleasure to appear here today to present the Department’s views on H.R. 2949, a bill to establish the Augusta Canal National Heritage Corridor in Georgia…we recommend enactment of H.R. 2949 with an amendment to provide that the designation of the heritage corridor shall not take effect until the Secretary of the Interior approves the partnership compact for the heritage corridor…This is especially important in order to define before designation, the clear relationship and responsibilities of each partner, and to define the appropriate Federal role. More specifically, and as called for in the plan, there needs to be…evidence of commitment to modify zoning regulations; and evidence of commitment to create a State park.”—Statement of Denis P. Galvin, Associate Director, Planning and Development, National Park Service, before the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands, June 28, 1994

“The federal government is seen as being able to solve the deterioration of the historic architecture of the downtown Main Street…The federal government will save the local culture. But the federal government condemns and tears down towns with houses by the hundreds for National Parks…If it tries to direct the evolution of the culture by central planning, even less rural prosperity will be the result. Remember—the big impact of these preservation programs is on rural, not urban, America… Using grants as the camel’s nose under the tent or as the direct incentive, state and federal government agencies will effectuate the enactment of stricter local, regional or state-levels zoning. Keep in mind that the preservationists think that it is just as good if locals carry the gun for state or federal level elite planning. Basically, this type of zoning is directed to the gentrification of the countryside…preservation zoning carried out on either a state or local level has destroyed businesses, ruined families and bankrupted innocent people, even sent them to jail.”— Carol W. LaGrasse, President, Property Rights Foundation of America, September 12, 1998

“An objective review of the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area Management Plan logically would lead to the conclusion that it is loaded with anti-heritage elements…In 1996 the National Park Service declared that the Hudson River Valley was the landscape that defined America. The Service has been shown to have an insatiable appetite… it is not just the historic sites that are targets of control, but the entire ten counties…The Heritage Area will create Heritage Area Trails. Up goes the red flag, for the encroachment that is sure to follow. Again, beware of those trails, trailways, corridors, and other gimmicks that suggest absolute control. Heritage tourism will subsequently be promoted… It is obvious that the time is long overdue for every citizen who might be impacted by the Heritage Area program, or other such monstrosities, to give serious thought to the implications…There is far too much control by special interests with the public-be-damned attitude.”—Nathaniel R. Dickinson, March 2, 2004, a biologist retired from a 35-year career in wildlife management, 21 years with the New York State Conservation Department.

“Ironically, a short supply of land and inevitable gentrification resulting from demand for land resulting from tourism and other factors are already taking their toll…It comes down to the deception of relying on tourism as an economic engine to the exclusion of industry, mining, commerce, and even infrastructure development for essentials such as asphalt production and waste disposal…the fault lies in promoting and implementing governmental and preservationist-sponsored policies that preclude the normal give and take of whatever the local populace or outside investors might bring to the region. When tourism, regulation, high-pressure grants, designations like Scenic Byways, and one-sided local and regional planning are used to focus an economy, the ordinary people are trapped. Out-priced, they can find themselves ultimately marginalized and fighting extinction.”The Tourism Trap, Carol W. LaGrasse, President, Property Rights Foundation of America, reprinted from New York Property Rights Clearinghouse, Vol. 8, No. 3, Summer 2004)

Today Congressman Bob Goodlatte announced that the U.S. Congress approved $2 million for the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation to continue efforts to preserve Civil War battlefield sites in the Shenandoah Valley. Also included was $500,000 to assist in implementation of the management plan for the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields National Historic District. “I was extremely pleased to help obtain this important funding for the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation,” stated Goodlatte. “This funding is essential to protecting and preserving these historic battlefields for future generations to enjoy.”—Official Press Release, February 26, 2003

“Not one man who fought at either Battle of Bull Run imagined that it was to close public roads to public passage. For more than 25 years the US Park Service has used the fact that they own land on either side of Routes 29 and 234 to justify closing those roads that have been used since the earliest days of this Republic. From the attempted closure of 29 in the late 70’s to recent resistance to modifying the intersection and road accesses in the Park, the Federal government has increased it’s bullying of state, county, and local residents to close the commuting and day to day transportation needs of Northern Virginians who use these roads.”—Jim Beers, February 11, 2003, retired after 30 years from a high-level management position with the USDOI,

“Think of it also as an investment in the tourism infrastructure, by protecting these historical sites which become tourism sites.”—Howard Kittell, Executive Director, Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation, September 25, 2000, The Winchester Star

“We are thrilled with this year’s round of grants. These record-high numbers are an indicator of the need and interest across the region in protecting and sharing the Valley’s Civil War story. It’s especially important to recognize that this assistance for the Shenandoah Valley wouldn’t be possible without the strong support of our congressional delegation: Senators John Warner and George Allen and Representatives Frank Wolf and Bob Goodlatte. Their hard work to provide federal funds for this program enables the Foundation to deliver the kind of impact envisioned by Congress when it created the National Historic District. We are extremely grateful for their ongoing commitment to that vision and to the Shenandoah Valley.”— Howard Kittell, Executive Director, Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation, Press Release, June 19, 2003

“During the battle of Piedmont the federal government took our belongings and our ancestors’ lives; now they want to do it again, only this time they want to worry the people to death instead of shooting them…The site doesn’t look like a battlefield now so what is there for people to see…The majority of the people who live on the site are in the agricultural business and don’t want to be in the tourist business…The National Parks already own too much land that is not properly cared for now. The federal government doesn’t need to go further in debt to deprive landowners of their property rights.”—Virginia Senator Frank W. Nolen, January 3, 1992, in a letter telling the National Park Service not to include the site of battle of Piedmont (near New Hope, Virginia) in Shenandoah Valley National Battlefields Historic District “preservation” plans.

“Despite the obstacles outlined…creation of a National Park unit at all or selected battlefields has significant supporters. Highland…and several national and regional organizations have encouraged a Federal role in the Valley beyond technical assistance and funding. In some cases, acquisition of core battlefields at all or selected sites was identified as the preferred solution…many of these organizations and local governments were not dissuaded by the potentially difficult management of a park composed of several discontiguous sites, or NPS analysis that the national significance of the Valley battlefields as a whole would require substantial land acquisition…”—National Park Service Study of Civil War Sites in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, Public Law 101-628, September, 1992

“I think the government should decide how landowners can use their land.”—Don Hower, February, 2005, Highland County Comprehensive Plan Review Committee meeting.