The Civilian Conservation Corps was created in the spring of 1933 by a new president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, as a way to put millions back to work. It gave jobs to an eventual three million young men. This was during the Great Depression and prior to the Second World War, which was an employment program of a quite different sort. The CCC left a legacy of trees, trails, shelters, footbridges, picnic areas, and campgrounds in local, state, and national parks across the country.
Now there is a new president, Joe Biden, and another CCC: The Civilian Climate Corps., which the president included in his 27 January 2021 Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad, a comprehensive call to action on many fronts. The relevant section on the CCC goes as follows:
“Sec. 215. Civilian Climate Corps. In furtherance of the policy set forth in section 214 of this order, the Secretary of the Interior, in collaboration with the Secretary of Agriculture and the heads of other relevant agencies, shall submit a strategy to the Task Force within 90 days of the date of this order for creating a Civilian Climate Corps Initiative, within existing appropriations, to mobilize the next generation of conservation and resilience workers and maximize the creation of accessible training opportunities and good jobs. The initiative shall aim to conserve and restore public lands and waters, bolster community resilience, increase reforestation, increase carbon sequestration in the agricultural sector, protect biodiversity, improve access to recreation, and address the changing climate.”
Under Biden’s executive order, the heads of the Department of the Interior, the Department of Agriculture and other departments have 90 days to present their plan to “mobilize the next generation of conservation and resilience workers,” a step toward fulfilling Biden’s promise to get the US on track to conserve 30% of lands and oceans by 2030.
Through its nine-year existence, Roosevelt’s CCC put three million jobless Americans to work. CCC enrollees planted more than three billion trees, paved 125,000 miles of roadways, erected 3,000 fire lookouts, and spent six million workdays fighting forest fires.
“We are conserving not only our natural resources but also our human resources,” Roosevelt said back then.
The CCC was a great idea then, its time has come around again.
“The Civilian Climate Corps Is a Big-Government Plan That All Americans Can Embrace,” Jim Lardner, New Yorker, 7 March 2021.
“Biden’s new conservation corps stirs hopes of nature-focused hiring spree,” Paola Rosa-Aquino, The Guardian, 9 Feb. 2021.
“Biden’s Civilian Climate Corps comes straight out of the New Deal,” Kate Yoder, Grist, 8 February 2021.