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Groups Seek Revival of Civilian Conservation Corps for AZ, U.S.

Civilian Conservation Corps workers display the handmade signs they created to post along a newly constructed trail system in 1937 at the Chiricahua National Monument in Arizona. (University of Arizona Library)
Civilian Conservation Corps workers display the handmade signs they created to post along a newly constructed trail system in 1937 at the Chiricahua National Monument in Arizona. (University of Arizona Library)
June 9, 2020

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Conservation groups say reviving the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps could help stimulate Arizona's economy by building critical infrastructure and providing jobs.

Unemployment is the highest it's been in Arizona and across the nation since the 1930s. The CCC operated more than 30 camps across Arizona between 1933 and 1942, employing about 41,000 young men ages 30 and younger.

Scott Garlid, executive director of the Arizona Wildlife Federation, said he believes now is the right time to bring back the program.

"The public-lands work, as you know, has already got a lot of support. There's a strong appetite for it out there, both by the general public and with our elected officials," Garlid said. "So, if there was ever a perfect moment to do this kind of thing, it's now."

Records show the Conservation Corps built roads, developed recreational areas, battled soil erosion, and planted trees. They also built permanent structures that are still in use in places such as the Grand Canyon, South Mountain Park in Phoenix, Colossal Cave near Tucson, and the Coronado National Forest.

Garlid said critical projects are pending right now in Arizona that could be accomplished by a new conservation corps.

"The classic case is the water infrastructure at Grand Canyon National Park. Two, three, four times a year, they basically have no water on the south rim of the Grand Canyon because something has happened with a pipeline," he said. "So, there's infrastructure like that, work that can be done."

Collin O'Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, said a new CCC could offer jobs in outdoor recreation, infrastructure repairs and forestry to rural and Native American youths, and young people of color - all of whom are being hit hard with unemployment.

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

Garlid, O'Mara and other conservation leaders are calling for Congress to commit an initial $200 million and accelerate trail and park infrastructure projects on public lands They say those projects could help rebuild the country's national parks and put millions of Americans to work.

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.
Mark Richardson, Public News Service - AZ