Biden Climate Corps Has Roots In History

President Biden’s Climate Change Executive Order stated that it is the government’s obligation to “protect America’s natural treasures, increase reforestation, improve access to recreation, and increase resilience to wildfires and storms” and that the Biden administration will “put a new generation of Americans to work conserving our public lands and waters.”  The Order directed the Cabinet within 90 days to develop a plan for “creating a Civilian Climate Corps Initiative…to mobilize the next generation of conservation and resilience workers and maximize the creation of accessible training opportunities and good jobs.”  The initiative parallels the Civilian Conservation Corps created by President Franklin Roosevelt — his so-called “tree army” to put millions of unemployed Americans (mostly young men) to work building infrastructure in national parks and forests and planting billions of trees and combating soil erosion on 84 million acres of farmlandThanks to Roosevelt, according to NPR, the number of national park visitors increased despite the Depression, from roughly 3 million a year in 1930 to 15.5 million in 1939.

Why This Matters:  One of President Roosevelt’s legacies is the more than 130 public and privately funded conservation organizations providing young people and veterans the opportunity to serve our country through projects on public lands. These already enable over 25,000 diverse young people and recent veterans “to strengthen communities, improve the environment and transform their lives through service in Corps programs.”  But with the renewed Biden commitment, conservation leaders hope that the new Civilian Climate Corps will exponentially grow this army of conservation workers to help get people back to work after the pandemic because there is an unlimited amount of work to be done to restore public lands and make communities more resilient to climate change, especially in underserved communities.  The only constraint is funding by Congress.

The Biden Executive Order – Relevant Sections

Sec. 214.  Policy.  It is the policy of my Administration to put a new generation of Americans to work conserving our public lands and waters.  The Federal Government must protect America’s natural treasures, increase reforestation, improve access to recreation, and increase resilience to wildfires and storms, while creating well-paying union jobs for more Americans, including more opportunities for women and people of color in occupations where they are underrepresented. America’s farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners have an important role to play in combating the climate crisis and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, by sequestering carbon in soils, grasses, trees, and other vegetation and sourcing sustainable bioproducts and fuels.  Coastal communities have an essential role to play in mitigating climate change and strengthening resilience by protecting and restoring coastal ecosystems, such as wetlands, seagrasses, coral and oyster reefs, and mangrove and kelp forests, to protect vulnerable coastlines, sequester carbon, and support biodiversity and fisheries.

Sec. 215.  Civilian Climate Corps.  In furtherance of the policy set forth in section 214 of this order, the Secretary of the Interior, in collaboration with the Secretary of Agriculture and the heads of other relevant agencies, shall submit a strategy to the Task Force within 90 days of the date of this order for creating a Civilian Climate Corps Initiative, within existing appropriations, to mobilize the next generation of conservation and resilience workers and maximize the creation of accessible training opportunities and good jobs.  The initiative shall aim to conserve and restore public lands and waters, bolster community resilience, increase reforestation, increase carbon sequestration in the agricultural sector, protect biodiversity, improve access to recreation, and address the changing climate.

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