Energy & Environment

Trump’s Park Service salary donation goes to Civil War battlefield


SHARPSBURG, MD. — President Trump’s donation of his first-quarter salary will go toward a pair of projects at a preserved Civil War battlefield in Maryland.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke traveled Wednesday to the Antietam National Battlefield in Maryland, 70 miles northwest of Washington, D.C., to announce his choice of where to direct the $78,333.32 check Trump gave to the National Park Service (NPS) in April.

“I can find no better investment in our country than our battlefields,” Zinke told NPS employees, philanthropists and reporters as he stood among the hills and cornfields where thousands of Union and Confederate soldiers died on a single day in 1862.

“As a former Navy SEAL … it’s about preserving our heritage of why we fight,” he said. “We fight for our family, we fight for our friends, we fight for our country, and we fight for our freedom. 

An anonymous donor and three nonprofit organizations added to Trump’s donation to bring it up to $264,213, the NPS said.

That money will go toward restoring the exterior of Antietam’s Newcomer House and replacing a fence at the battlefield.

{mosads}Conservationists and Trump’s opponents criticized Zinke’s announcement as part of a stunt by the president.

The president wants to cut the NPS budget by about $350 million, or 13 percent, to $2.55 billion. Zinke defended the proposal, along with an overall 13 percent cut to the Interior Department, last month as “what a balanced budget looks like.” 

Meanwhile, the NPS is facing a nationwide maintenance backlog of $11 billion. 

“Honoring military sacrifice and conserving battlefields are things that all Americans can get behind. But this publicity stunt must be taken in context: President Trump and Secretary Zinke are proposing a crippling $1.6 billion budget cut to our national parks, battlefields, and other public lands,” Greg Zimmerman, deputy director of the Center for Western Priorities, said in a statement, referring to the Interior’s proposed cuts to public lands programs. 

Trump’s $78,333.32 check accounted for his after-tax income between Jan. 20 and the end of March. He asked specifically that it go to maintaining historic battlefields. 

NPS officials struggled after the donation to find specific projects that could be paid for entirely with the donation, records showed. 

Trump has yet to nominate a director for NPS, a position that requires Senate confirmation.

Zinke used the Wednesday event, the day after Independence Day, to announce $7.2 million in new grants going to states, localities or nonprofits to buy historic battlefield land at 19 sites from the Civil, Revolutionary and 1812 wars and preserve it. 

That money comes from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which uses fees from offshore oil and natural gas drilling to acquire and preserve park land.

The Antietam Battlefield honors the 1862 Battle of Antietam.

The battle was the bloodiest day in American military history, with more than 22,700 dead, wounded or missing after the fight, with Union soldiers making up the bulk of the casualties. The battle was regarded as a draw, but gave President Abraham Lincoln a strategic win that led days later to the Emancipation Proclamation.

The Newcomer House, whose restoration project is benefiting from Trump’s donation, was built near what became the battlefield in the 1780’s. The Union Army used it to treat wounded soldiers after the battle. 

The federal government bought the house from a private owner in 2007, and has since used it for exhibit space. 


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