Today In History: Civilian Conservation Corps Founded
Today in 1933 marked the announcement of the forming of the Civilian Conservation Corps, a federal works program meant to ameliorate the ill effects of the Great Depression. The CCC was in operation from 1933 until 1942. It provided an opportunity for unemployed young men to do hard physical labor in the service of infrastructure projects, mostly in the Western states. The CCC was focused on conservation and national resource development. Despite strict, militaristic work conditions, it was a popular program and generally remembered fondly by those who participated in it.
A total of about three million men were employed by the CCC, with enrollment at any given time limited to 300,000. They were paid a standard wage of $30 a month, and were given shelter, food and clothes. Thirty dollars a month translates to roughly $570 a month in today’s dollars. A portion of their wage – $25 per month, was paid to the men’s families.
Over the course of the program’s nine years of operation, workers planted about three billion trees. They also renovated over eight hundred parks around the country, clearing trails and building facilities. Previously inaccessible areas were also made accessible through the construction of new public roads.
The CCC gave many previously totally unemployed young men valuable skills and job experience, and also prepared them for military service in WWII through its strict protocols. After the War, many men returned to the West to tour and to relocate, driven by happy memories of open spaces and hard work.
It wasn’t without its problems. The program was racially segregated, though it likely helped many black, Latino and Native American men find employment during and after the war.
The CCC was one of the most popular programs in the New Deal, but was never actually instituted as a permanent government agency. As the Depression receded and job opportunities increased, and following Pearl Harbor, FDR refocused all government programs on the war. Wilderness firefighters remained, but all other CCC employees were moved to military bases to work on projects related to the war.