, Salem, MA


April 1, 2013

Column: FDR ranks among the great environmentalists


The CCC’s life was short, lasting only from 1933 until 1942, and ending when the world war raging across two hemispheres killed the program by depriving it of its manpower. Yet, its impacts are with us still, even if we don’t always recognize them.

The global warming crisis of the 1920s and 1930s was the Dust Bowl that wreaked havoc across the American Midwest. The CCC helped combat this environmental scourge by building roads, restoring sites, reinforcing small dams and, of course, planting those 3 billion trees.

But it wasn’t just the environment that benefited from the work of the CCC. Millions of jobless Americans did, too. Young men who had never graduated from high school nor had three meals a day now had a chance and a cause for hope. And hope can be a kind of sustenance when all else around you is futility.

The CCC gave these workers a solid education, good health and a hard discipline — enough so that when America finally did go to war in late 1941, it was CCC men who were first in line.

Those who worked for the CCC made $30 a month, with $25 going home at a time when the dollar bought a lot more than it does today. That $25 for mom back home helped pay for groceries and pay the bills, with even some left over to stash away in the bank.

So, in its own way, the Roosevelt administration was helping the private sector recover through “trickle-down economics” long before Ronald Reagan coined that phrase.

So, what did the CCC do? Those early New England ski paths? Built by the CCC. Those roads, guard shacks, picnic areas, ponds, bathhouses and pedestrian paths that visitors enjoyed at state and national parks? Built by the CCC. The Blue Hills Reservation in Canton and Breakheart Reservation in Saugus? Built by the CCC.

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