The view in the photo in my header would not exist today except for the work of environmentalists in the twentieth century.
Granddaughter Joy snapped the photo early one morning while standing on a mountain in the Appalachian Chain where she was hiking. She was facing east across the Great Valley towards the Blue Ridge mountains of VA.
This whole mountainous area was restored and preserved by environmentalists led by FDR in the 1930s. You can read all about it in the wonderful best-selling book Rightful Heritage: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the land of America by Douglas Brinkley.
FDR was instrumental in the creation of the CCC, the National Park Service, and other federal government entities during the New Deal which saved what remained of natural areas in the USA that were very nearly ruined by poor farming methods, clear cutting forests, and various activities associated with ignorance and greed.
Until the twentieth century, America was viewed by many people as a “land existing for exploitation.” The Great Depression, the dust bowl, flooding along the Mississippi, the Tennessee, and other rivers, as well as droughts, the destruction of watersheds and prairies alike, plus the extinction of various native creatures like the Passenger Pidgeon and the Ivory Billed Woodpecker led to a huge wakeup call.
Douglas’ book examines how FDR beginning as a child developed an uncommon sensitivity to the importance of conservation and preservation.
I’ve read several books about FDR and the more I read, the more I become aware of the complex times in which he and his cohorts lived and how he became the best president we have ever had. There is no doubt why Tom Brokaw referred to FDR’s generation as “the greatest.”
Brinkley’s book evokes many memories for me because my dad worked for the CCC after 1940 when he graduated from the University of MI with a BS in forestry and soil conservation. Later he joined the Forest Service followed by the Soil Conservation Service, both created or expanded during FDR’s watch.
The next time you visit federal or state parkland areas such as the George Washington Parkway, Skyline Drive and Big Meadow VA, Joshua Tree National Park California (named by the Mormons), Mount Zion National Park Utah, Everglades FL, Gettysburg, Fredericksburg, and hundreds of other historic, wild and scenic areas across the United States, remember they wouldn’t be here if commercial developers like Trump and the Koch Brothers had their way.
We owe a huge debt to the hundreds of boys and men who toiled in various government projects, as well as the women like Eleanor Roosevelt and my aunts who helped raise money and organize various preservation efforts.
When women got the vote, things changed for the better, I think.