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Rethinking Resources in Our National Battlefields

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Part of the Landscape Series book series (LAEC,volume 25)


The importance of protecting battlefield landscapes has been recognized by the National Park Service for over a century. As we seek strategies to protect these lands, a look to their fraught histories offers insight into how these lands came to be seen as valuable. Specifically, we argue that the rationale for their preservation conceals conservation opportunities for battlefields. Assessing the language used in the enabling legislation of battlefield parks as a subset of all national parks reveals how the value of cultural and natural resources differs among the units. The rationale for creating battlefield parks also has changed through time. While terms like “landscape” have appeared in the earliest of these founding documents, there was a shift to highlighting the unique historical importance of these sites. More recent designations have been more likely to include terms indicating the importance of natural resource values as justification for park establishment. These urban greenspaces provide crucial habitat for wildlife while serving as outdoor enjoyment and recreational opportunities. Recognizing the significance of the natural resources alongside the cultural and historical importance of battlefield parks results in missed opportunities for these parks to provide ecosystem services. This is important considering that most national battlefields lie within urban environments and are in close proximity to some of the most populated metropolitan areas of the United States. Explicit consideration of the ecosystem value of battlefield parks could also benefit future discussions of the political and cultural functions of these sites.

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  • DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-18991-4_2
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  1. 1.

    Text analysis was used to calculate word frequency count in the enabling legislation. The legislation was coded as either a battlefield or national park. For battlefields, we included the eleven National Battlefields, nine National Military Parks, and four National Battlefield Parks. We used a stoplist to remove common words and then calculated the word frequency to assess the most common words describing national parks versus battlefields.

  2. 2.

    The NPS lists the founding of the parks as 1978, for this is when President Jimmy Carter designated the land national monuments. Two years later Congress would follow by passing the necessary legislation.

  3. 3.

    The only new land added after Reagan was the National Park of American Samoa in 1988.

    The Dry Tortugas National Park was designated a national monument under the Antiquities Act in 1935. It was then named a national park in 1992. See

  4. 4.

    58,929,580 people visited in 1990 compared to 66,593,439 in 2000. For the data, see Keiter 2013.

  5. 5.

    For an example of this approach as applied to the national parks, see “National Resource Condition Assessment” NPS. 2013.


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We would like to thank our colleagues, friends, and family for their support. This chapter would not have been possible without the encouragement of Rob Nelson, Director of the Digital Scholarship Lab. He generously provided crucial feedback on the drafts throughout the process. Nathaniel Ayers also helped develop an innovative design for a digital project based on this chapter, and to which we are grateful. The University of Richmond’s DSL is a special place to be a part of. We also want to thank Tiffany Madron and Taylor Arnold who patiently listened as we talked through ideas. Finally, a special thanks to Todd R. Lookingbill and Peter D. Smallwood for organizing these efforts and asking us to be a part of this book.

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Correspondence to Justin Madron .

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Madron, J., Tilton, L. (2019). Rethinking Resources in Our National Battlefields. In: Lookingbill, T., Smallwood, P. (eds) Collateral Values. Landscape Series, vol 25. Springer, Cham.

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