Virtual OmniBUS Tour! Last stop: What Valley Forge in 1777 tells us about public lands today

Valley Forge cannons. Photo by Christopher Lancette.

After traveling several thousand miles and experiencing a spectacular array of wild lands, we’re stopping in Pennsylvania to put it all in perspective.

By Christopher Lancette

For the last stop on our tour before we zero in on Washington D.C., I’ve brought us to Valley Forge National Historic Park because it’s a very special to me...a place that symbolizes a vital component of the Omnibus Public Land Management Act that we haven’t talked about yet — historic and cultural sites. The bill would enhance destinations ranging from Minute Man National Historical Park in Massachusetts and the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route in Rhode Island to New York’s Votes for Women History Trail Route and Maine’s Harriet Beecher Stowe House.

Valley Forge is not directly affected by the bill but these hallowed grounds represent to me a part of the reason why we’re on this tour. They symbolize the ideals that make this country great — notions of freedom and making sacrifices for future generations. The men who staggered in to this camp that December of 1777 and went on to face other horrendous winters endured hardships we can not really imagine:

George Washington grieved at the sight of his men “without clothes to cover their nakedness, without blankets to lie on, without shoes, by which their marches might be traced from blood of their feet”. He lauded their sacrifice as “a mark of patience which, in my opinion, can scarce be paralleled...naked and starving as they are, we cannot enough admire the incomparable patience and fidelity of the soldiers.”

Approximately 2,000 of these men died at Valley Forge, felled largely by dysentery and other painful diseases. Look to your right and you can see replicas of the meager log huts the soldiers called home. As our bus moves along, you can see out the front window the artillery park where cannons sat ready for duty...and now the field where the ragtag survivors grew into a real army. Imagine these brave men standing right there, listening to a drillmaster teaching them more efficient methods for loading and firing their weapons.

The men who marched out of Valley Forge gave us a Revolution and a nation, ensuring that those who came after them could indeed be free to pursue their own happiness. I often seek mine in the outdoors. I cherish the freedom of roaming our forests and our rivers, our hiking trails and our wildlife viewing sanctuaries. It is historic ground, though, that inspires me the most...that makes me want to drive this tour bus all over the country calling on Congress to vote yes on the Omnibus Public Land Management Act. A strong land ethic that is a part of our national identity: We love our public lands and we strive to create more of them.

Whatever reasons most motivate you to protect America’s public lands, we thank you for joining The Wilderness Society on this tour. We’re pulling in to downtown D.C. now. That’s the Capitol in front of us. The vote has been delayed so Congress can focus on the stimulus package. Let’s let our representatives know we want them to pass the Omnibus public lands bill after they address the economic measures.

It would be a perfect way to honor all the people who as Lincoln said “gave the last full measure of devotion” to this nation.

Click here to help us support the historic legislation that would protect our nation’s cultural treasures and wildest lands.

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photo: Valley Forge cannons. Photo by Christopher Lancette.

TWS Communications Director Christopher Lancette is a student of history and a grateful patriot.