Nature of Things: Reviving the Civilian Conservation Corps is a solid idea


CCC juniper fL wiki 1 In: Nature of Things: Reviving the Civilian Conservation Corps is a solid idea | Our Santa Fe River, Inc. (OSFR) | Protecting the Santa Fe River
Water wheel constructed at Juniper Springs, FL by CCC workers. Photo by Wikipedia.


Sometimes things are not bad just because they are old.  Some might say your writer is old and he remembers talk of CCC camps near where he grew up, active at the time of his birth, with effects and benefits felt long afterward.

As a reminder of the CCC program, here is a description from Wikipedia:

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was a voluntary public work relief program that operated from 1933 to 1942 in the United States for unemployed, unmarried men ages 18–25 and eventually expanded to ages 17–28.[1] Robert Fechner was the first director of this agency, succeeded by James McEntee following Fechner’s death. The CCC was a major part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt‘s New Deal that provided manual labor jobs related to the conservation and development of natural resources in rural lands owned by federal, state, and local governments. The CCC was designed to provide jobs for young men and to relieve families who had difficulty finding jobs during the Great Depression in the United States. Maximum enrollment at any one time was 300,000. Through the course of its nine years in operation, 3 million young men participated in the CCC, which provided them with shelter, clothing, and food, together with a wage of $30 (equivalent to $590 in 2019) per month ($25 of which had to be sent home to their families).[2]

If you go to read more about the program you will see that it was somewhat oriented toward forestry and environmental projects.

CCC was active in North Florida and one of your writer’s SCUBA sites on the Suwannee River was also the site of a CCC barracks.  Noteworthy there is the existence of dozens if not hundreds of old shovels, axes and pickaxes, thrown into the river as if there were a celebration of the ending of work.  At first we did not know what to think of so many tools at one spot, but when talking with the landowner, a former Naval Commander, he explained the early existence of the camp on their family land back in the 30s and 40s.

At any rate, Tom Palmer has a pretty good idea, made even better by the current pandemic with so many people out of work.

Read the complete article here in TCPalm.

Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
– A river is like a life: once taken,
it cannot be brought back © Jim Tatum

Nature of Things: Reviving the Civilian Conservation Corps is a solid idea

Tom Palmer
Special to The Ledger

You’ve probably heard something about the ambitious environmental initiative called the Green New Deal being discussed in Congress and which doesn’t seem to have broad support at this point.

One aspect that has drawn some serious comment, especially at a time when many people are looking for jobs, is the revival of the Civilian Conservation Corps.

The CCC was one of a number of programs that President Franklin D. Roosevelt created during the Great Depression to provide jobs for the unemployed and to get some important conservation work done.

CCC projects included the development of Highlands Hammock State Park near Sebring. It was one of Florida’s first state parks.

Unlike other parts of the Green New Deal, which are controversial because they involve major social and economic changes, spending money to preserve and maintain our national heritage seems like something that could enjoy broad public and political support.

That may be especially true with the arrival of a more environmentally friendly administration in Washington.

The main  argument for this or some similar environmental-jobs program is that it would provide employment and help solve major problems on federal conservation lands.

Those problems include a well-documented  backlog in maintenance projects and growing shortages of land management staff at our national wildlife refuges, national parks and national forests.

And this is not simply a feel-good effort. It is an investment because these sites attract millions of visitors a year, contributing to local economies. It is also a recognition that the quality of conservation land will decline in the absence of active management.

There are some cases in which public lands have had to be closed because of staff and maintenance shortages.

One of the best collections of data I’ve seen that illustrates this involves a 2018 breakdown of the figures affecting national parks. It is unlikely the situation has  improved since then.

Here’s a summary of how this has affected national parks in Florida.

Big Cypress National Preserve has a projected need of $39 million, including $13 million in deferred maintenance. But there is also a need to deal with the routine maintenance of the preserve’s 287 miles of trails, 10 campgrounds and 141 buildings.

Biscayne National Park, which is mostly open water, has a $2 million need, half of which is deferred maintenance.

Canaveral National Seashore lists $19 million in needs, including $16 million in deferred maintenance.

Castillo de San Marcos National Monument lists $10 million in needs, $8 million of which is deferred maintenance.

DeSoto National Memorial lists a $672,000 need; $427,000 of it is deferred maintenance.

Dry Tortugas National Park lists a $73 million need, $67 million of which is deferred maintenance, most involving repairs to the fort and marina.

Everglades National Park lists a $115 million need, including $75 million in deferred maintenance on its 187 miles of trails, 110 miles of paved roads, 18 miles of unpaved roads, 25 campgrounds and 155 buildings.

Gulf Islands National Seashore in the Panhandle lists $82 million in needs, including $67 in deferred maintenance.

Timucuan Ecological & Historic Preserve in Jacksonville lists $10 million in needs, including $7 million in deferred maintenance.

That totals $331.7 million in total estimated infrastructure needs alone. This doesn’t count staffing shortages.

Florida contains 28 national wildlife refuges, including two in Polk County.

Staffing is a problem because many of these refuges are managed from distant offices. The refuges in Polk, for instance, are managed from Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge near Titusville.

I wasn’t able to find any current figures on the refuges’ maintenance and staffing needs, which include everything from conducting prescribed burns to monitoring endangered plant and animal populations.

Federal officials were not forthcoming in providing information about this question to the authors of a recent article published in Audubon magazine.

The article cited estimates from former refuge employees and refuge supporters that the refuges needed $900 million a year, which is about twice what is being budgeted.

Florida is home to three national forests, which are also facing funding shortages for maintenance and staffing.

Two big costs are prescribed fire and road maintenance – most of the forest roads are unpaved – which are important to maintaining healthy forests and providing access to visitors.

This all means there is plenty of work that needs to be done, and doing the work could be both a boost to the economy and to conservation….

Check out Tom Palmer’s blog at

1 Comment

  1. I appreciated being able to read the article, “Nature of Things: Reviving the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) is a Solid Idea”. I would like to see a revival of the CCC as a possible way to create jobs for the unemployed. I would like to assist with an effort to bring back the CCC. Thanks for sharing the above-referenced article with us.

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