National Parks Conservation Association Says Action in Congress Can Save Underground Railroad Sites, Significant American History

 
PRESS RELEASE
  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date:   June 28, 2007
Contact:   Andrea Keller Helsel, NPCA, 202-454-3332


National Parks Conservation Association Says Action in Congress Can Save Underground Railroad Sites, Significant American History

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The nation’s leading park advocacy group, the nonprofit National Parks Conservation Association, said that the historic Underground Railroad could be saved by several actions taken this week in Congress.

On Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bipartisan amendment sponsored by Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-23-FL) and Rep. Michael Castle (R-DE) to direct an additional $1 million from the National Park Service’s fiscal year 2008 budget to the Underground Railroad Network to Freedom program. The Administration’s budget for fiscal year 2008 requested approximately $500,000 to fund the program.

"Like many national parks, the National Park Service’s Underground Railroad Network to Freedom program has suffered insufficient funding and staff," said National Parks Conservation Association President Tom Kiernan. "With support from Congress, we can save this important program and ensure that the legacy of the Underground Railroad is adequately interpreted and preserved for generations."

Bipartisan legislation to authorize additional funding for the program was introduced Wednesday in the U.S. Senate by Senators Joe Biden (D-DE) and Arlen Specter (R-PA). Original cosponsors of the bipartisan legislation include Senators Alexander, Carper, Cardin, Cochran, Kennedy, Kerry, Levin, and Obama. Companion legislation was introduced in the House in March, and was passed by the Natural Resources Committee today to authorize funding for the Underground Railroad program.

The National Parks Conservation Association is hopeful that Congress will pass this important legislation, and provide adequate funding for the Underground Railroad program.

Congress established the Underground Railroad Network to Freedom program in 1998 to increase public knowledge and awareness of the Underground Railroad. The program partners National Park Service knowledge and modest grants with local expertise, empowering more than 285 state and local historic sites, community groups, and national park sites in 27 states and the District of Columbia to more capably tell their part of the Underground Railroad story. It is the only national program dedicated to the preservation, interpretation, and dissemination of the stories of those who resisted enslavement through escape and flight, and the allies who assisted them along the way.

Without adequate funding, researchers can’t identify artifacts or document important oral histories, and important Underground Railroad sites are lost to development or decay. The National Parks Conservation Association placed the program on its 2004 list of America’s Ten Most Endangered National Parks because of insufficient funding.

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