Why the Civilian Conservation Corps Should be Restablished

by Ronald C. Weston

Last month I was reminded of the impressive accomplishments of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) while touring California National Parks. The CCC was a public works program that operated from 1933 to 1942 as part of FDR’s New Deal. It provided manual labor jobs related to the conservation and development of natural resources in rural lands owned by federal, state and local governments. The American public made the CCC the most popular of all the New Deal programs.

I believe that the CCC model aligns well with the 21st Century triple bottom line movement.

  • For the People, the Civilian Conservation Corps offered positive social outcomes. The 2.5 million unemployed young men who participated developed skills and helped improve the communities where their camps worked. Enrollment in the CCC also improved corps members’ physical condition and morale.
  • For the Planet, the CCC volunteers planted nearly 3 billion trees to help reforest America and also enhanced public awareness and appreciation of the outdoors and natural resources.
  • For Profit and betterment of the economy, the CCC provided 300,000 jobs at a given time to unemployed men, which helped stimulate the depression-era economy. The program also enhanced skills, which increased employability. Further, the Corps work represented long-term investment in the natural and man-made infrastructure at more than 800 parks across the nation.

Given the positive impact and success of the CCC, why not consider developing a similar program in 2011? As President Obama and Congress consider passage of a new jobs bill to stimulate employment, a new conservation corps could create jobs, develop the skills of unemployed young adults, and invest in much needed environmental infrastructure improvement. Stimulating the economy by investing in education, transportation infrastructure, and green energy all seem to have merit. However, developing a program like the CCC to improve and restore vital natural resources should not be overlooked. With many regions of the country still recovering from natural disasters, a new Corps could also help clean-up and restore damaged parks, trails and recreational facilities.

The list of prime candidates to participate in the modern day CCC program would include: unemployed high school graduates, unemployed recent college graduates, unemployed armed services veterans. By working together outdoors to create meaningful improvements, a group of citizens would reconnect with nature while they improve both rural and urban environments for all to enjoy for generations to come. Just as I was able to walk through forests planted by the original Corps back in the 1930’s, future generations could enjoy the legacy of improvements made by a new CCC.

So would you support a 21st Century Triple-C pilot program to invest in Triple-P?

Ronald C. Weston, AIA, LEED AP is a New Jersey-based architect and planner, and outdoor enthusiast.

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