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WASHINGTON, DC -- The Mill Springs Battlefield is one step closer to becoming part of the National Park System (NPS). On Wednesday, the House Natural Resources Committee unanimously approved the Mill Springs Battlefield National Monument Act, H.R. 5979, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Harold "Hal" Rogers (KY-05). Committee clearance paves the way for the bill to be considered by the U.S. House of Representatives. A companion bill has also been filed in the U.S. Senate by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

In 1991, the National Park Service identified Mill Springs Battlefield as one of the 25 most endangered battlefields in America, prompting the birth of the grassroots Mill Springs Battlefield Association (MSBA). Since 1992, MSBA has maintained and protected the battlefield. In 1993, the battlefield was designated a U.S. National Historic Landmark District, but its addition to the NPS will provide much-needed federal support to maintain the site.

"I introduced this bill to ensure that the Mill Springs Battlefield is preserved for future generations. This site is part of our nation's rich history," said Rogers. "In early 1862, the Confederate Army guarded Cumberland Gap, the eastern end of a defensive line extending from Columbus, Kentucky. A Union force arrived nearby on January 17, 1862, where they awaited reinforcements from Somerset to join them before attacking the Confederates. Ultimately, this battle became the first significant Union victory of the Civil War."

On Tuesday, Bill Neikirk, a Pulaski County native and founding president of the MSBA, testified before the committee in support of Rogers' bill, offering to donate more than 900 acres of the historic land, along with continued assistance from the MSBA. 

"MSBA is unique in that we are not asking the Park Service to take over undeveloped battlefield land, nor buy the land. In contrast, we hope to donate the National Park Service the 900 acres with miles of well-kept interpretive trails, a marked driving tour, and a visitor’s center/museum," said Neikirk. "The Mill Springs Battlefield Association will continue as a friends group in support of the battlefield, as our dedication to preserving & protecting the battlefield will not change when this hopefully becomes a National Monument."

Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) submitted an amendment to the bill, adding the NPS-provided map to the legislation. 

The bill now moves on for consideration by the full U.S. House of Representatives. 

VIDEO: Click here to watch Neikirk's testimony and Rogers' statement in support of H.R. 5979.