Nature Conservation and Recreation

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Men gathered for a tree planting project, 1939. Men in the CCC helped plant the 800 trees. Courtesy of the Uintah County Library via Mountain West Digital Library.

Reforestation and Nature Conservation Programs

CCC reforestation projects took place in state parks, national parks, and private land forests. The US Forest Service employed skilled woodsmen alongside the camp enrollees to assist with forestry programs. This had the benefit of providing essential guidance to young men who had not been out in nature for an extended time before, in addition to providing employment to local workers from the surrounding region.

The CCC also worked on nature conservation and wildlife protection programs. Leo Young worked with the Civilian Conservation Corps on the Bear River Bird Refuge, and commented in a 1972 oral history: “They’ve done a lot of good on the refuge. They hauled rock and the initial graveling of the dikes was done by the CCC boys. They hauled gravel on the dikes and smoothed the beaches. They also helped in gathering sick ducks, fencing, nesting surveys, and projects like that.”

One example of pest control as a conservation activity was the Mormon Cricket Project on Blue Mountain. The CCC built trenches to trap and exterminate Mormon crickets, flightless insects that can cause damage to crops and rangeland if they break out in large swarms.

Some of the programs that the CCC developed look counterproductive when compared against current environmental knowledge. Swamps were drained as part of mosquito control projects, which had negative effects on the wildlife of many areas. Soil erosion in the southern states was fought by planting the invasive plant kudzu as ground cover. Kudzu is popularly known as the “vine that ate the south.”