Saving the Environment

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.

26 thoughts on “Saving the Environment

  1. One of your best posts, I think. As keen as I am on recycling and saving the planet and so on, I still take many things for granted. It’s important to be reminded that there were people who came before us who did great work in this field.


  2. Amen to everything you’ve written here. It is a wonder that we have as many conservation areas as we have with all the greed and competition that goes on in our country.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. We have so much in this nation for which we can be grateful. Our parks, wilderness areas preserving our natural environment are part of what makes our nation great. When I think of the infrastructure needs its seemed to me a program similar to that during the depression could benefit many needing employment, our country and us. Visiting many of the parks from Maine, the Smokies, through the country and West Coast — magnificent trees, cacti, mountains and dessert, small streams to lakes and raging rivers plus so much more gave our family much pleasure. We planned to take so many more such trips til my husband’s declining health prevented our doing so. I especially treasure visits to the Grand Canyon numerous times — always a differing view with changing light and weather conditions, the mule ride part way into the Canyon — all relived in my mind when I listen to orchestral “Grand Canyon Suite.”
    I think our nation desperately needs the perspective of a woman leader who embraces our nation as a whole entity and offers hope for our future at this time.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I will always be grateful to Roosevelt and the Civilian Conservation Corps. I think of all the young men brought in to give them work during the depression. They weren’t paid a lot but were expected to send the money they earned home to their families. One of the projects they worked on was building the cabins and roads which is now Skyline Drive. And now we are all enjoying these wonderful parks. I hope no one comes along and messes that up.

    Liked by 1 person

    • They didn’t make much money, however, they loved the perks including fresh air, great living arrangements, steady work, and three squares a day. In the early years, the bulk of the CCC and boys were from the inner cities.


  5. FYI: I just reserved it on the library web site and noticed that there is a “no renewal” policy for this book. I have never seen that before. Normally we have 3 week check out policy with a renewal of another 3 weeks if no one has reserved the book. Apparently this is in hot demand and/or short supply. Now I’m really anxious to read. Hahaha.


  6. We have two very beautiful places right here that are a result of WPA. First Landing State Park and the Norfolk Botanical Garden were both begun as part of this program and now provide acres of beauty and enjoyment for our residents and visitors.


    • You live in a beautiful area Al. Norfolk Botanical Garden is a gem. Years ago, we traveled to First Landing State Park as part of a fourth grade field day trip. As you know state history is part of the curriculum for fourth graders. FDR was a huge supporter of the state park systems and VA has a very fine system.


  7. This is a wonderful post, Dianne. Art used to work for the U.S.E.P.A. and he told me that people don’t know how badly Ronald Reagan nearly destroyed the E.P.A. and tied their hands from protecting the environment. Yes, let’s get a woman in there. Definitely.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Reagan was a disaster. He was also going senile, and getting shot didn’t help him. David Brock a former ‘hit man’ for Reagan has written all about it. Cutting budgets and hamstringing agencies won’t make things better. Neither would Trump.


  8. I always wonder why the Depression (which was before my time, but which my parents talked about incessantly) was supposed to be so bad; but we have all these wonderful legacies that were built during the Depression, from the airports dams to the parks and parkways. Clearly, something good was going on.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Read ‘The Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World’ by Ahmed Liaquat.

      Basically, FDR listened to John Maynard Keynes. Building things creates jobs. Jobs give people income they spend and that stimulates the economy. The worst thing you can do Ina recession or depression is cut budgets. Things were bad, but they got much better. We are always stronger than we think.

      Another point: FDR was an educated, compassionate, and cultured man but he also was wise and had a wonderful wife in Eleanor. Presidents’ wives make a huge difference.


  9. Great post! Good to see an author recognizing FDR’s feelings for our environment, and your comments are right on.

    A couple of glitches (which do not detract from the post at all): The Forest Service (a common error is referring to it as the Forestry Service) was founded by Theodore Roosevelt in 1905. The National Park Service was founded in 1916, a couple of years after TR left the presidency. So an earlier Roosevelt deserves major credit for those establishments.

    I recently saw the Dust Bowl series on PBS (missed the first showing), which points out the immensity of the problems FDR faced. The Soil Conservation Service played a big role in restoring and protecting our lands as did the Civilian Conservation Corps. My wife’s father was a CCC worker, and told us many stories about his experiences and how the country and his family were helped by the program.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, the FS was TRs brain child.

      Brinkley says ER and FDR were following in cousin TR’s footsteps. FDR enlarged the FS mission. Farming practices and soil conservation were FDR’s major contribution. Many other entities also came into being during FDR’s time in office. I was amazed at what FDR and the Democrat Congress accomplished. Truly a wonderful jobs program and economic stimulus.

      TVA affected my family. My parents, both from WI met in TN where dad was working with the CCC near Norris Dam and mom’s dad was working with TVA on Norris Dam.

      Rural electrification, clean drinking water, and inexpensive energy were very important to FDR. Too bad we have lost sight of that today in FL and Flint.

      In the early 1940s, we lived in a ‘cottage’ near Asheville in the Smokey mountains, constructed by the CCC in the 1930s.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s