On this day in 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt established the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). A federally funded organization, it put thousands of Americans to work during the Great Depression on large public work projects with environmental aspects and benefits. It became a shining example of the good that can come from uniting the labor and environmental movements.
Part of the New Deal plan for social and economic progress, it took a bold step toward making a commitment to environmental conservation. Open to unemployed, unmarried males between the ages of 18 and 26, the young workers were provided with shelter, clothing, and food as they took part in manual labor jobs related to the conservation and development of natural resources in rural lands owned by federal, state, and local governments.
Over the course of its existence, the CCC planted nearly three billion trees across the country, constructed more than 800 parks (and upgraded state parks), updated fire fighting methods for forested areas, built dams and other systems for flood control, and built public roadways and foot trails in remote areas.
The CCC was commonly nicknamed, “Roosevelt’s Tree Army.” When lobbying for its passage Roosevelt remarked, “The forests are the lungs of our land, which purify our air and give strength to our people.”
The CCC lasted until 1942, when World War II and the draft caused the need for work relief to decline, and the program was closed.
Photo: CCC workers constructing a road, 1933. Wikipedia (CC)