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Here's What the New Deal-Era Civilian Conservation Corps Accomplished

May 28, 2020 in History

By Dave Roos

On the heels of the Great Depression, the federal government under FDR hired young people to work as an army of tree planters, firefighters and even ski trail blazers.

When Franklin D. Roosevelt was sworn in as president in 1933, he took the helm of a United States brought to its knees by the Great Depression. With unemployment as high as 25 percent, millions were out of work and an entire generation of young people had lost hope in their futures, many living in makeshift shanty towns and riding the rails as hobos and drifters.

In his inaugural address, FDR latched on to an idea that was already being tested in states like California and Pennsylvania—to employ young people as an environmental army of tree planters, forest firefighters and soil conservationists.

“Our greatest primary task is to put people to work,” said FDR. “This is no unsolvable problem if we face it wisely and courageously. It can be accomplished in part by direct recruiting by the government itself, treating the task as we would treat the emergency of a war, but at the same time, through this employment, accomplishing greatly needed projects to stimulate and reorganize the use of our natural resources.”

President Franklin D. Roosevelt visiting a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp in Virginia on August 12, 1933.

On March 31, 1933, FDR signed the Federal Unemployment Relief Act, which recruited healthy unmarried young men to join what would become known as the Civilian Conservation Corps or CCC. The men, mostly uneducated and untrained, were paid $30 a month, $25 of which was sent directly to their families. They lived in racially segregated camps that operated under military-style rules, but they had money in their pockets and food in their bellies.

At its peak in 1935, the CCC enrolled 500,000 men at 2,600 camps across the country. The popular New Deal program was phased out by 1942 as the same young enrollees enlisted for World War II.

Over its nine-year run, the CCC accomplished its dual goals of rescuing a lost generation and restoring the nation’s squandered natural wealth. The following are just some of the CCC’s accomplishments.

WATCH: ‘Bust’ from ‘America the Story of Us’ on HISTORY Vault

The CCC Planted 3.5 Billion Trees

When FDR was just 19 years old, he was put in charge of the Roosevelt family’s aging estate …read more


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