The Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area has not elicited conflict in many arenas, though certainly communities and citizens have discussed the measure. However, because this legislation is so new, no one knows the true impact of Heritage Area because it has not been implemented thus far. Perhaps when the Heritage Area is in operation and the effects have been noted, the issue will be played out in more arenas. Because it is such a recent issue, it has most notably been played out in Congress. S. 2739, the Senate bill that contains the JTHG proposal was previously pending in the Energy and Natural Resources Committee and it came before the full senate on April 10, 2008. S. 2739, or the Consolidated Natural Resource Act of 2008 is a bulky federalist bill with many provisions, the JTHG NHA being one of the minor constituents. The vote in the Senate was 91 to 4, with no members from Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia or Virginia voting against the legislation. The bill was then referred to the House of Representatives. Although the specific Journey Through Hallowed Ground earmark had already passed the House in late 2007, it was re-referred here because of its inclusion in the Consolidated Natural Resource Act of 2008. The bill was approved by the House of Representatives on April 29, 2008 with a vote of 291 to 117. Representative Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD), a major foe of the Heritage Area was the only Maryland Representative to vote against the legislation, while most of the representatives in Pennsylvania and Virginia approved the bill with all representatives from West Virgina doing so as well. The Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area was finally approved on May 8, 2008 when S. 2739 was signed into law by President George W. Bush.
Because the JTHG NHA legislation was an earmark on a large federal spending bill, It would have been very difficult for opposition groups to mobilize and lobby Congress because the Consolidated Natural Resource Act of 2008 was predicted to pass even before it was voted on. The proponents of the legislation, mainly the JTHG Partnership, were very effective at securing allies in Congress as representatives from Virginia were the co-sponsors of the bill in both the House and the Senate. This is a good example of the inherent political power of certain groups and their ability to pass legislation. Consider the Board of Directors for the partnership, there are members from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Piedmont Environmental Council, Scenic America, The Thomas Jefferson Foundation, and many other influential groups. Though opponents are certainly represented in Congress by Representative Roscoe Bartlett, the proponents were very diligent in securing support that outweighed this seemingly sole voice of opposition. Though there was some documented opposition, and according to congressional hearings on the matter, 114 national conservative leaders wrote to members of Congress urging them to vote against S. 2739 on the basis of property rights protections, there was very little opposition from traditional environmental justice advocates. Perhaps when the Heritage Area is implemented and the effects are felt, a movement of this nature will solidify itself and begin to act.
Currently there is no lawsuit against the heritage area and those in favor of it are urged to support the JTHG organization which will receive the federal funding to carry out the necessary preservation, conservation, tourism, and gentrification tactics. Certainly a court case is not out of the realm of possibility, which is discussed in the 'How' section of the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Case Study. Some groups are holding local hearings and informational meetings on the issue such as Loudon County Citizens for Property Rights, Liberty Matters and of course the Partnership which has been promoting the Heritage Area locally since the passage of the recent legislation on the issue.
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