New Study Reveals Threat to Little Bighorn Battlefield

 
PRESS RELEASE
  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date:   June 23, 2003
Contact:   Tony Jewett, NPCA, P: 406-495-1560
Andrea Keller, NPCA, P: 202-454-3332


New Study Reveals Threat to Little Bighorn Battlefield

Washington, D.C. - Significant artifacts and priceless museum collections at Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument in Montana are threatened by insufficient funding, according to a new report released today by the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA).

“Little Bighorn is a premier example of the National Park Service telling a balanced story of a significant chapter in American history,” said NPCA’s Senior Director for the Northern Rockies Tony Jewett. “Sadly, despite the Park Service’s effort, this educational heritage is threatened by a lack of financial support to preserve the park’s priceless artifacts.”

According to NPCA’s new State of the Parks® report, insufficient funding hinders the ability of the National Park Service to protect artifacts, including 5,000 pieces of correspondence, 2,000 photographs, and several thousand relics directly related to the Battle of Little Bighorn. Less than one percent of the collection is shared with the public, due to a lack of exhibit space, and storage facilities are inadequate, allowing insects, for example, to infest the collection, which is one of the most extensive in the entire National Park System. For lack of space, some museum objects are even stacked on top of cabinets. Fire suppression, temperature control, and security are also a concern, which led NPCA to give the park an overall score of 74 out of 100 points for the preservation of its cultural treasures.

NPCA’s State of the Parks report also raised concern that development of the land adjacent to the park would threaten the battlefield’s historic character and viewshed. NPCA encourages park staff to continue to work with adjacent landowners, including the Crow Indian Nation and the Custer Battlefield Preservation Committee, to protect surrounding lands so that park visitors can continue to experience the battlefield as it was in 1876. Additionally, NPCA recommended funding be provided to implement the park’s planned transit system, which has been identified as a critical way to address traffic congestion at Little Bighorn.

“Little Bighorn is nationally significant. We need a first-rate visitor center where Americans can fully immerse themselves in this story. We need to invest in a transportation system that allows visitors to focus on the park’s living history, rather than the RV in front of them,” said Jewett.

Established as a national cemetery by the Secretary of War in 1879 to protect the graves of Lt. Colonel George A. Custer and the 7th Cavalry, Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument was expanded and renamed to honor the role and history of the Native Americans who fought and died in the 1876 Battle of Little Bighorn.

NPCA launched the landmark State of the Parks program in 2000 to assess the condition of natural and cultural resources in national parks across the country. The product of year-long analysis, “Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument: A Resource Assessment,” is the eighth NPCA State of the Parks report.

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