The Great Conservation Debate
This chapter explores how the debate over Corps conservation work, introduced as a local problem in Chapter Four, spread to the national level during the late 1930s. It begins by illustrating how positive media coverage during the early and mid-1930s made the CCC the New Deal's most popular program, and perhaps more importantly, synonymous with conservation. Yet Chapter Five also examines an increasingly vocal group of Americans who during the late-1930s publicly criticized Corps conservation work, and Roosevelt's New Deal, for threatening American nature. While others like Bob Marshall faulted CCC conservation projects such as the building of roads in national parks for destroying wilderness, biological scientists followed Aldo Leopold's lead by claiming that seemingly benign Corps work such as the planting of trees in national forests actually upset ecological balance. Chapter Five examines how this growing opposition to the CCC sparked a public, national debate about the role of wilderness preservation and ecological balance within the conservation movement. The chapter concludes that while the widespread popularity of the CCC helped make the conservation movement a truly grassroots phenomenon, the public debate over Corps work indicated that the very meaning of conservation was in flux during the Great Depression era.
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