December 20, 2012


Image: Army Corp of Engineers

Arlington National Cemetery's Millennium Project would make space suitable for burial in a northwest corner of the cemetery. Some trees that date back to just after the Civil War might be cut down.

A proposed Arlington National Cemetery expansion may eat into the only remaining stand of old-growth forest in Arlington County, alarming county officials.

The county’s historic preservation staff wrote to the Army Corps of Engineers after seeing plans for the project to voice its concerns about the woods.

At a Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board meeting on Wednesday, Historic Preservation Planner Rebeccah Ballo noted that the board still has time to voice an opinion on the subject at future meetings, though they did not vote on action items that night.

"Essentially, what's at stake is the last old-growth forest in the county," Ballo told committee members.

The Army Corps of Engineers released its Environmental Assessment for the "Millennium Project" this month. The project -- which has been in the works since the 1990s, but is gearing up again after years of controversy and turmoil at the cemetery -- would provide more burial plots for the fast-filling cemetery.

In the study, the Army acknowledges that its preferred plan would involve clearing 890 trees, some of which date back to just after the Civil War. However, officials pledge to leave a patch of 220-year-old trees in tact.

The trees are west of Arlington House, a historic structure on the edge of the existing burial ground. The environmental report traces the woods back to historic writings, drawings and photographs from around the time Gen. Robert E. Lee lived there.

The groves on the firing line include 90-year-old white oak and chestnut oak and 130-year old northern red oaks. The report also said there are two native plants, Lonicera sempervirens and Prunus virginiana, in the project area that can't be found anywhere else near the George Washington Memorial Parkway.

The report says that preserving trees is a priority for the project, and planners hope to minimize the damage by planting 600 new trees.

Ballo said she planned to attend a meeting of the Arlington Urban Forestry Commission, which will also be pondering the Millennium Project plans, Thursday night. The meeting is open to the public.



December 20, 2012

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Comments (7)

Keep the forest in ANC

I spoke with several active duty and retired servicemembers about this issue..none of them supported the plan to cut down the trees for more burial space in Arlington Cemetery. They all said to tighten the restrictions and when there is no more room then find another location. The trees are the living history and should not be sacrificed for any reason.

irret 274 days ago

Don't dishonor those who served

Killing old trees dishonors those who served. It is far more appropriate to re-use the former "Arlington Naval Annex/BUPERS" land for additional gravesites.

Steve 274 days ago

We are fortunate

To have lots of old growth trees still along the GW Parkway and in the parks along Military Rd, such as Potomac Overlook, etc. which we can visit and enjoy.

This is a federal issue, and I believe the cemetery's need is more important.

June 275 days ago

Necessary for Those That Served Our Country

Unfortunate that the cemetery needs additional grave sites, but this is totally justified because of its purpose. Those who served have earned this.

Simon 275 days ago

To save the trees, contact your Senators and Congressmen

This project can not be stopped except by an Act of Congress.

The National Park Service once controlled this area, holding the property within its park at Arlington House, the Robert E. Lee Memorial. However, about ten years ago, Congress enacted a bill that transferred the affected property from the National Park Service to the Department of Defense (DOD) to enable Arlington Cemetery to increase its capacity. Both of Virginia's senators and Congressman Jim Moran voted in favor of the legislation.

Members of Congress who receive support and campaign funds from veteran's organizations provided the primary support for the legislation. The legislation received no opposition because neither the public nor any members of Congress were aware that the legislation would destroy an old-growth forest.

About seven years ago, Arlington Ceametery officials held a scoping session for an Environmental Assessment (EA) for the project. All public speakers opposed the project. Some suggested that if the DOD needed more space for its burials, it could help the environment by utilizing some of the Pentagon's parking lots instead of destroying the woodlands. DOD did not follow-up on this.

After some delay, the project is now again going forward. Everybody concerned now needs to recognize that they will be wasting their time and efforts if they decide to make any comments about the tree loss in response to the EA. This has all been done before. Nobody should expect DOD or the Army Corps of Engineers to decline to comply with an Act of Congress.

The only thing that will save the trees will be new federal legislation that repeals the act that transferred the property to DOD. Anyone interested in saving the trees therefore needs to ask Congressman Moran, Senator Mark Warner, and Senator-elect Tim Kaine to sponsor such legislation. It will also be necessary to enlist to active support of national conservation groups, such as the Sierra Club, that have the resources to support a Congressional effort and to gain public support for the legislation.

Bernie Berne

Bernie Berne 280 days ago

old growth trees

this is insane. if the cemetery is full then close it. do not go forward with any plan that cuts these trees down. the army corp are crazy and should be stopped from making awful proposals like this

terri 281 days ago

Removal of trees in Cemetary


Margaret Alvord 281 days ago

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