The Deborah Whittier Fitts Battlefield Stewardship Fund – LTV

This was officially released today:

FOR RELEASE August 6, 2009

Contact:  Don Owen, Executive Director, (540) 687-8441



Middleburg, Va. (August 6, 2009) – The Land Trust of Virginia Board of Directors has created a new fund, called the Deborah Whittier Fitts Battlefield Stewardship Fund, as a means of recognizing and providing financial support for landowners interested in protecting properties where Civil War battles took place.   Grants from the fund will be used to offset some of individual landowner’s expenses associated with putting battlefield acreage into easement.

The Land Trust of Virginia (LTV) currently holds easements on 25 Civil War battlefield properties covering more than 1,500 acres, including 912 acres of the Battle of Upperville, 517 acres of the Battle of Unison, 70 acres of the Battle of Aldie, and 33 acres of the Battle of Middleburg.  LTV’s Board of Directors anticipates that LTV will pursue and accept even more easements on Civil War sites as the Deborah Whittier Fitts Battlefield Preservation Fund becomes more widely known.

A long-time professional journalist who reported for both the Loudoun Times Mirror and the Civil War News, Ms. Fitts was considered by many to be the nation’s leading journalist covering Civil War preservation issues.  For more than a decade, Fitts wrote eloquently about the struggle to protect Virginia’s hallowed Civil War landscape.  She covered many major Civil War preservation battles that made national headlines, such as the proposed Disney theme park near Manassas and the successful preservation of Brandy Station, as well as many other nationally significant Civil War battlefield preservation efforts.

Childs Burden, a member of LTV’s Board of Directors and a close friend and colleague of Deborah’s, said:  “The preservation of the history of this beloved Commonwealth of Virginia played such an important part of Deborah’s life.  She has played an equally important role in preserving our Commonwealth’s heritage.  Deborah devoted much of her life’s work to writing and educating others about Manassas, Chantilly, Unison, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Brandy Station, Aldie, Middleburg, Upperville, The Wilderness, and Spotsylvania Court House, Mount Zion Church, and many other Civil War sites threatened by development.”

Last year, the Civil War Preservation Trust honored Deborah’s memory by conveying her, posthumously, the distinguished “Lifetime Achievement Award,” bestowed for journalistic excellence in educating her readers about the fragile status of our nation’s sacred battlefields.  The Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT) Board of Trustees also voted in June 2009 to render a $30,000 grant to the Land Trust of Virginia for the purpose of inaugurating the Deborah Whittier Fitts Battlefield Stewardship Fund.  Another $15,000 has already been pledged, bringing the total fund to $45,000.

Jim Campi, spokesman for CWPT, asserted:  “I speak for everyone on the CWPT staff when I say she has left a lasting legacy of education and preservation for which we are extremely grateful. Through her work at The Civil War News, Deborah spread her love of history and her passion for preservation to an army’s worth of readers across the country. Through her admiring readers, Deborah’s impact will continue to be felt for many years to come. Now, with the Deborah Whittier Fitts Battlefield Stewardship Fund, her work will live on through the preserved land she helped to save.”

For further information about the Deborah Whittier Fitts Battlefield Stewardship Fund, contact LTV Executive Director Don Owen at or LTV Board member Childs Burden at

The Land Trust of Virginia has worked to establish easements with an aim to permanently protect the land by working with the land owners.  There are several “win-win” points to the way the trust works.  In this program preservation and conservation work hand-in-hand.  The site details the tax breaks and other benefits to the owners.  These actions don’t place organizations such as Civil War Preservation Trust on the line as the “owner” of the property, with corresponding ownership requirements (insurance, taxes, upkeep, etc.).  It does allow the land owners to keep the productivity of the property without damaging the natural resource.

Why is this a big issue?  Well Northern Virginia, or perhaps broadly ALL of Virginia, is, in spite of the economic situation, still in a “build and expand” stage.  Much of this expansion is due to the ever louder cry for business class elbow room around the nation’s capitol.  People want to live and work in close proximity and avoid the nasty commutes.  So office complexes, subdivisions, and shopping centers emerge like Bermuda grass runners along the main road networks.  In many cases the same road networks that brought the armies into battle in the Civil War.  I could go on a rant about our sprawl, but you’ve all heard it before.  This program works as an insurance against such things as are happening at the Wilderness.

The additional draw here, as mentioned more eloquently in less words over at Eric Wittenberg’s site yesterday, the fund announced today is in memory of Deborah Whitter Fitts.  I never had the honor of knowing Mrs. Fitts personally, but recall years back when we needed to be rallied for preservation efforts, she was holding the guidon highest and at the middle of the fight.  A fitting tribute.

If you are a blogger, please consider posting a note about this.  From the looks of things a good “blog burst” is already underway!

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