Fort Snelling and the Civilian Conservation Corps

In 1933, Franklin Delano Roosevelt took the top position in the United States from Herbert Hoover and started his long tenure as President. At the time, the country was deep in the depths of the Great Depression. Unemployment was approaching 25% and more than 12 million people were unemployed. Something needed to be done quickly to get the country back to work.

Thirty-three days after Roosevelt took office, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was born on April 5, 1933, via the Emergency Conservation Work Act, passed by Congress just a week earlier. Men between the ages of 18 and 25 would work on projects including erosion and flood control, forestry, and park improvements. Known as the “tree army”, nearly three million men fanned out across the country, improving parks, managing erosion that ate away at topsoil, and planting nearly three billion trees.

We see their legacy every day in our national parks through the forest management and park buildings they erected. The CCC camps were built and run by military personnel, usually a lieutenant, and workers wore surplus Army uniforms. For both the men and the officers, camp life was good training for the world war that was to come just a few years later. The men learned the discipline of working hard as a team, and officers learned how to set up and run sprawling camps of men focused on a singular purpose.

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