After roughly a decade since it was first discussed, United States Representatives considered changing the name of the Homestead National Monument of America to the Homestead National Historical Park.
The bill, officially referred to as H.R. 1472, was discussed by the House of Representatives on Wednesday.
Congressman Jared Huffman of California gave a brief history of the monument and the Homestead Act, which was signed by President Lincoln in 1862 and enabled citizens to settle roughly 10 percent of the United States.
“To commemorate the first claim under the Homestead Act, Congress established the Homestead National Monument of America in 1936, serving as a lasting memorial to the over 1.6 million claims that built the American west,” Huffman said.
Congressman Adrian Smith of Nebraska, who introduced the bill in February, told the representatives that the word “monument” evokes images of a single statue, or natural feature, which does not fit the description of Homestead.
Huffman listed some of the features Homestead has today, including a heritage museum, education center, hiking trails and 100 acres of restored tallgrass prairie.
“Re-designating this important monument as a national historic park would provide a more accurate and appropriate description of the scope and complexity of the sites resources, and conform the park’s designation to the park service standards,” Huffman said.
Congressman Tom McClintock of California also noted that using “of America” in Homestead’s title is redundant, and an anomaly within the National Park Service.
“It’s supported by the entire Nebraska delegation, and even more importantly by local stakeholders,” Smith said.
Rich Hovendick, a member of the Friends of Homestead National Monument of America group, said the bill was first introduced around 2009, but did not get out of committee.
“We see this as an economic development thing to bring more people to southeast Nebraska, as well as just depicting what is at the park as more than just a monument,” Hovendick said.
H.R. 1472 was officially passed by the House of Representatives on Wednesday afternoon, and now awaits action from the Senate.
“We’re pleased that there is a discussion and interest in the Homestead National Monument,” Homestead superintendent Mark Engler said. “Regardless of the outcome of the vote, I know that we will be looking to carry on and do our work here in sharing our nation’s epic Homestead story.”
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