Why the new Civilian Climate Corps might be good for hikers

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In August, after the hottest month in recorded history, the Senate overcame a major hurdle to funding the Civilian Climate Corps (CCC), a New Deal-style employment program that would put thousands of Americans to work to tackle the climate crisis and build new outdoor infrastructure such as hiking trails, campgrounds, etc. . This is a major step and geared towards finding a solution to a seemingly insoluble problem. Additionally, polls suggest the program would be popular with the public, assuming lawmakers can get it started.

The idea for the Civilian Climate Corps has its roots in President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps program of the 1930s, a public works scheme that put millions of young men to work to build everything from trails to campgrounds passing through bridges in American forests and parks. Much of this infrastructure is still in use today.

The new Civilian Climate Corps would bring the old CCC into the 21st century by rebuilding outdoor recreation infrastructure, working on forest fire mitigation and investing in climate resilience. And while the 1930s CCC was separate and catered to white males, the new Civilian Climate Corps would employ workers of different genders, races, and economic backgrounds.

“The CCC program will likely encompass a lot of stewardship work on the ground, such as thinning projects for forest management and trail maintenance and construction,” said Louis Geltman, Director of Policy for the Outdoor Alliance. “But the vision though is that these jobs include training opportunities to help raise the next generation of land management agency employees, nonprofit workers, and recreational infrastructure specialists.”

President Biden first proposed what would become the Civilian Climate Corps in an executive order on his first day of work, earmarking $ 10 billion for the program proposed in his U.S. Jobs Plan. Since then, lawmakers have ironed out the details. The main sponsors of the Civilian Climate Corps are Oregon Senator Ron Wyden and Colorado Representative Joe Neguse, both of whom serve districts that regularly experience severe wildfires.

Members of Congress speak at an event in support of the Civilian Climate Corps. Photo: Kevin Dietsch / Staff via Getty

“We can put thousands of Americans to work immediately to rebuild crumbling infrastructure on our public lands, some of which dates back to the original Civilian Conservation Corps,” said Senator Martin Heinrich of New Mexico. “New CCC members can also make vital contributions to restore the health of America’s landscapes and improve our resilience to climate impacts such as wildfires and more extreme floods. “

The new program plans to “conserve and restore public lands and waters, strengthen the resilience of communities, increase reforestation, increase carbon sequestration in the agricultural sector, protect biodiversity, improve ‘access to leisure and to cope with climate change’, according to the text of the executive decree. It aims to provide funding for thousands of Americans, young and experienced, to get to work – literally – to tackle the climate crisis, protect public lands, and strengthen ecosystems as natural climate solutions.

Does that sound wide to you? This is kind of the point. The climate crisis is a large and complex problem that affects communities across geographic and socio-economic boundaries, from heat waves and forest fires to increasing flooding and destabilized ecosystems. The CCC will fund wildland firefighting and hurricane response, construction of new hiking trails, campgrounds and other outdoor recreation infrastructure, wetland restoration, invasive species removal and resolution the long-standing backlog of maintenance of national parks, among others.

The idea enjoys some bipartisan support, although there is little unanimous support. According to a recent survey by Data for progress, 65 percent of voters support a Civilian Climate Body, especially young and rural voters. In many ways, it offers an attractive solution to current problems: unemployment is high due to the Covid-19 pandemic, outdoor recreation is in high demand, and communities across the United States are feeling the effects of the climate crisis. The mega-drought in the West brought Utah to consider dropping water for its wildlife. National parks dealing with overcrowding issues how crowds love our natural resources to death. Hiking trails have been closed due to heatwave. And Forest fires, floods and hurricanes continue to ravage the country.

“Now is the time to invest in our public lands, invest in clean air and water, and invest in rural jobs,” said Wyden.

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