Honoring Roosevelt’s Tree Army

While living in Newton, North Carolina as a boy, I lived across the street from the boundary of Newton-Conover High School and an overgrown tract of land that once was the site of a CCC camp. The acronym, CCC stood for Civilian Conservation Corps, a New Deal era work relief program started by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1933 that put over three million young men and adults to work during the Great Depression of the 1930’s and 1940’s. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the program’s inception.

Over the years I have come to appreciate the accomplishments of the CCC. Whether it is the Pachaug State Forest, or Salmon River State Park here in eastern Connecticut, or the Valley of Fire in Nevada, or Fort Ancient in Ohio, or Skyline Drive in Virginia’s Shenandoah Mountains, CCC projects have been a treasures I’ve enjoyed and a testament to the government’s ability to creatively address the economic needs of the nation while attending to the common good. When Roosevelt announced the project he stated in a “fireside address,”

“First, we are giving opportunity of employment to one-quarter of a million of the unemployed, especially the young men who have dependents, to go into the forestry and flood prevention work. This is a big task because it means feeding, clothing and caring for nearly twice as many men as we have in the regular army itself. In creating this civilian conservation corps we are killing two birds with one stone. We are clearly enhancing the value of our natural resources and second, we are relieving an appreciable amount of actual distress.”

As the United States moves further into the 21st Century, perhaps it is time to talk seriously of resurrecting a corp of young men and women, and even older adults, who will work to enhance our natural treasures and support our failing infrastructure. I know the spirit for such a cause is alive and well. Post-Katrina student volunteers showed that to be true. Maybe the time for Barak Obama’s Plan for Universal Voluntary Public Service or something similar has come. Indeed, in a period where young people are seeking to serve their country in ways that don’t require military service, a public program much like the CCC is warranted and fair. That doesn’t mean that there is an equality of service between military service and doing domestic public work, but it does mean that any American who may qualify, should be given the respect and benefits earned by their national service.

Check out the following articles on the Civilian Conservation Corps. I think you’ll be amazed at the history and legacy of a very successful project.

Work done by Civilian Conservation Corps remains a treasure today – Norwich Bulletin

Civilian Conservation Corps Legacy

Civilian Conservation Corps History

Is U.S. ready to serve? – Chicago Tribune

Putting the “National” in National Service – John McCain

View the Videos on the CCC:

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