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Bill seeks a new special designation for Great Dismal Swamp

December 26, 2020 GMT

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.

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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.”