U.S. Civilian Conservation Corps

February 7, 2009 at 4:53 pm | Posted in Economy, Historical | Leave a comment
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Poster promoting the U.S. Civilian Conservation Corps; artist Albert M. Bender for the Illinois WPA Art Project, Chicago, 1941.

Poster promoting the U.S. Civilian Conservation Corps; artist Albert M. Bender for the Illinois WPA Art Project, Chicago, 1941.

Some of the specific accomplishments of the [U.S. Civilian Conservation] Corps during its existence included 3,470 fire towers erected, 97,000 miles of fire roads built, 4,235,000 man-days devoted to fighting fires, and more than three billion trees planted. Five hundred camps were under the control of the Soil Conservation Service, performing erosion control. Erosion was ultimately arrested on more than twenty million acres. The CCC made outstanding contributions in the development of recreational facilities in national, state, county and metropolitan parks.

There were 7,153,000 enrollee man-days expended on other related conservation activities. These included protection of range for the Grazing Service, protecting the natural habitats of wildlife, stream improvement, restocking of fish and building small dams for water conservation. Eighty-three camps in 15 western states were assigned 45 projects of this nature.

Drainage was another important phase of land conservation and management. There were 84,400,000 acres of good agricultural land dependent on man-made drainage systems, an area equal to the combined states of Ohio, Indiana and Iowa. Forty-six camps were assigned to this work under the direction of the U.S. Bureau of Agriculture Engineering. Indian enrollees did much of this work.

Residents of southern Indiana will never forget the emergency work of the CCC during the flooding of the Ohio River in 1937. The combined strength of camps in the area saved countless lives and much property in danger of being swept away. They contributed 1,240,000 man-days of emergency work in floods of the Ohio and Mississippi valleys. Other disasters in which the CCC participated were the floods of Vermont and New York in 1937 and the New England hurricane of 1938. During blizzards of 1936-37 in Utah, 1,000,000 sheep were stranded and in danger of starvation. CCC enrollees braved the drifts and saved the flocks.

Few records were kept of the sociological impact of the 1930s on the nation’s young men. Many had never been beyond the borders of their state, and others had not even left home. Yet, many would never return. They would choose to remain in towns and villages near their camps. They married, raised families and put down their roots, much as had other young men in the migratory movements of past years. Those who did return, many with brides, came back as successful products of an experiment in living that had renewed and stored their confidence in themselves and in their country.

The Civilian Conservation Corps approached maturity in 1937. Hundreds of enrollees had passed through the system and returned home to boast of their experiences, while hundreds more demonstrated their satisfaction by extending their enlistments. Life in the camps had settled down to almost a routine, with work the order of the day, every day, except Sunday. But, after the evening meal the camps came to life as well over a hundred men relaxed and had fun. One building in every camp was a combined dayroom, recreation center and canteen, or PX. In this building, amid the din of Ping-Pong, poker, innumerable bottles of “coke”, and occasional beers, were fostered friendships that exist to this day. This, then, was the Civilian Conservation Corps that FDR tried to make permanent in April, 1937.

From the CCC Brief History, Civilian Conservation Corps Legacy

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