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A black and white portrait taken in Room 3 of the FDR Memorial in Washington D.C. which focused on the years of 1941 - 1945 in FDR's presidency associated with World War 2. The photo features a sculpture of President Franklin D. Roosevelt on the right with his Scottish terrier, Fala, to the left. Behind the sculptures of FDR and Fala is the inscription reading, "They (who) seek to establish systems of government based on the regimentation of all human beings by a handful of individual this a new order. It is not new and it is not order," which is FDR's own remark given on March 15. 1941 in regards to World War 2.
FDR Memorial, Washington, D.C. Highsmith, Carol M.[between 1980 and 2006]. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

This Week in History: Senate Bill S. 598 is signed by President Franklin Roosevelt, Creating the Civilian Conservation Corps

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On March 31, 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt received Senate Bill S. 598 on his desk to be signed. The bill, which was introduced on March 27, 1933, was passed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate and quickly moved forward to the President. President Roosevelt then signed an executive order on April 5.

So what exactly was Senate Bill S. 598? This bill, which Franklin D. Roosevelt introduced as part of the New Deal, was formally known as the Emergency Conservation Work (EWC) Act, but gained popularity and became more commonly known and referred to as the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in 1933. The CCC was formed to implement nationwide projects for conservation (page 862) and to provide economic aid to unemployed, young men and their families as a result of the Great Depression. Unemployed youths and men, aged 17 – 25, could enroll for the relief of unemployment through the performance of valuable public work in forests, parks, lands, and water for the preservation and use of essential natural resources.

Following the President’s signature on March 31, the first camp was opened on April 17, 1933, and by July 1, 1933, nearly 275,000 men were enrolled in the camps across the country. The men were paid $30.00 a month (page 862), and $22.00 – $25.00 of that pay was sent back to their families who would then use the funds to stimulate the local economy, from which the impact of the program on the economy was felt all over the country. The camps that were erected across the country as a result of the program’s popularity were run with military proficiency and many government agencies were involved in the overall success of the implementation of the CCC.

Black and white photo of members of the Civilian Conservation Corps lining an irrigation canal.
[Civilian Conservation Corps enrollees lining an irrigation canal]. Between 1936 and 1940. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division.
The U.S. Department of Labor chose a selection agent for each state to certify and enroll applicants to the War Department. Following the Department of Labor, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of the Interior coordinated the work plans for each state depending on location and need. The U.S. Army and Navy were responsible for the supervision of the construction and operation of the camps and worked to transport the new employees to their designated camps. Once enrolled and settled, the USDA Forest Service and National Park Service oversaw the camp projects, which included, but were not limited to, planting trees, fighting forest fires by removing deadwood and constructing firebreaks, maintaining roadways and infrastructure, while also providing trainings to better the employment opportunities of those men enrolled once their terms, which could last from six months to two years, came to an end. While the camp often followed a military-inspired regime, it was not all work and no play; the men had their evenings and weekends to spend their remaining $5 in whatever way they fancied, usually within the city around the camp.

A black and white picture showing two members of the Civilian Conservation Corps drafting maps, staring intently at the map as they use a protractor to make precise edits to the map.
[Two U.S. Civilian Conservation Corps enrollees drafing[sic] maps]. [Between 1937 and 1942]. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

The Civilian Conservation Corps saw great success during its nearly 10-year run. At its peak, there were over 500,000 men enrolled at once and more than 4,500 camps operating in all 50 states, including territories such as Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. California had more than 150 camps, Virginia had 63, and Delaware had three in 1935. The CCC enrollees were performing more than 100 kinds of work for the conservation of the country’s natural resources and national parks – advancing parks and forestry development by 10 to 20 years in only three years. However, there was a decline in enrollment following the turn of the decade and, with impending war and the unemployment rates drastically lower than when the program began, many news organizations began to question the necessity of the organization and program. Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, Congress began investigating all federal agencies to determine which were pertinent to the war effort and shifted funding from those that were not essential to be allocated elsewhere. In late 1941, the Civilian Conservation Corps came under review and it was recommended it be abolished by the summer of 1942. While never actually abolished, funding was withdrawn and shifted to the war effort, however, both the Senate and House agreed to a House action authorizing $8 million to liquidate the agency.

A color picture of Stony Man Overlook on Skyline Drive which depicts mountains and valleys in the distance which seem to go on for miles with a blue sky with minimal clouds and a few trees in the forefront.
Stony Man Overlook on Skyline Drive, which is also a crossing point of the Appalachian Trail, in Northern Virginia. Highsmith, C. M. [Between 1980 and 2006]. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.
While there were many benefits to the CCC program, the conservation of the country for future generations might be the greatest accomplishment. During its 10-year stretch, nearly three billion trees were planted to help reforest America, and many public roadways and infrastructures that are still used today were constructed by the men in the CCC program in many national parks. For instance, in Shenandoah National Park, the men of the Civilian Conservation Corps designed and created overlooks as well as worked to control the erosion on the hillsides from the construction of Skyline Drive (a popular tourist destination in the park) and planted shrubbery and trees. To this day, the impacts and benefits of the Civilian Conservation Corps can be enjoyed in national parks across the country and we still reap the benefits of Franklin Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps nearly 100 years later.

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