NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — A Virginia congressman has introduced a bill that would designate the Great Dismal Swamp a National Heritage Area, which could bring federal funding for historic preservation.
The Virginian-Pilot reports U.S. Rep. Donald McEachin has filed the measure, which is backed by a collaborative that includes local Native American tribes, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Association for the Study of African American Life & History.
The swamp, already recognized as a National Wildlife Refuge, served for centuries as a safe-haven for thousands of Native Americans and Black people escaping slavery.
“When you think about the folks seeking their freedom, they were made of sterner stuff than I am,” McEachin told the newspaper. “We need to make sure we preserve the swamp for future generations … for tourism purposes, for archaeological study, for the reintroduction of wildlife.”
The Fish and Wildlife Service calls the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge “the largest intact remnant of a vast habitat that once covered more than one million acres of southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina.”