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AZ Conservationists, Civic Leaders Back Creation of Civilian Climate Corps

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Tuesday, June 15, 2021   

PHOENIX -- An idea from the past could soon return to Arizona and other states to battle the ravages of climate change.

Groups such as the Sierra Club, Arizona Interfaith Power and Light and others are endorsing the potential of the Civilian Climate Corps, a part of President Joe Biden's American Jobs Plan, modeled after the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps.

The original CCC, as it was known, deployed millions of young people in the 1930s to build and maintain infrastructure in national parks and on public lands.

Sandy Bahr, director of the Sierra Club Grand Canyon Chapter, said a Civilian Climate Corps could protect parks as big as the Grand Canyon or as small as a neighborhood playground.

"It's a key provision that really helps to put some focus where we need it, which is on climate and on investing in actions to build resiliency," Bahr asserted. "As we've seen in Arizona, climate change is not something in the future. It is happening now."

Biden is calling for $10 billion to launch the program, which would employ thousands of young people across the country to protect and remediate the effects of climate change, strengthen the country's natural defenses and maintain public lands.

The original CCC established hundreds of camps across the state, building roads, rails, facilities and other enhancements to Arizona parks.

The Sierra Club recently posted a series of video comments from teachers, civil rights leaders, park rangers, organizers and historians about the plan's potential benefits.

Connie Rudd, a retired supervisor with the National Park Service, talked about the idea's potential scope.

"We often think of these projects as being primarily in natural-area Western parks," Rudd explained. "But the whole concept is everything, border to border, North, South, East, West, urban and suburban projects."

Bahr added in a down economy, the plan would provide well-paying jobs for young people who want to serve their country.

"Young people have demonstrated quite clearly that the climate crisis is a priority for them," Bahr contended. "They're interested in serving. This is a way for them to do more and for us to invest in them, as well."

Historians say there are still hundreds of buildings, trails and other public improvements built by the original CCC in Arizona and across the country.


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