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Groups Press to Revive Civilian Conservation Corps

Civilian Conservation Corps crews completed the Ellie Mitchell Pavilion in Rocky Neck State Park in 1936. (Edward Fritzen/Flickr)
Civilian Conservation Corps crews completed the Ellie Mitchell Pavilion in Rocky Neck State Park in 1936. (Edward Fritzen/Flickr)
May 22, 2020

ROCKY NECK STATE PARK, Conn. - Environmental groups are calling on Congress to revive the Civilian Conservation Corps, in order to put people back to work while at the same time, improving beaches, trails and forests.

Connecticut state parks are dotted with stone structures, trails and roads that were built by CCC crews in the 1930s and 40s. Collin O'Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, says a new CCC program would help people get back to work after the pandemic, improve parks and other infrastructure, and fight climate change to boot.

"It's one of those solutions that actually solves 15 different public policy priorities all at once," says O'Mara. "And I mean, I'd argue it's as close to an economic recovery silver bullet as is out there right now."

More than 100,000 Connecticut residents under age 30 have filed for unemployment benefits during the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the state has a big backlog of maintenance projects on three thousand miles of trails. And plans are at-the-ready to restore habitat for more than 600 species that were declared "at-risk" in the 2015 Connecticut State Wildlife Action Plan.

Eric Hammerling, executive director of the Connecticut Forest and Park Association, says the state's coastline still hasn't entirely recovered from Superstorm Sandy in 2012. He says coastal habitats, like wetlands and floodplains, need to be restored in order to reduce the impact of future storms.

"There are a tremendous number of projects that the idea is there, the plans are even there," says Hammerling. "But the funding and bodies to make it happen are the missing element."

Hammerling says groups like his and AmeriCorps already sponsor environmental restoration crews - efforts that could be easily scaled up if the Civilian Conservation Corps was to make a comeback.

Disclosure: National Wildlife Federation contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Endangered Species & Wildlife, Energy Policy, Environment, Public Lands/Wilderness, Salmon Recovery, Water. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - CT