Friday, June 14, 2013

A New CCC & WPA Could Have Helped Contain (or prevent) the Colorado Wildfires


(Video of the Black Forest Fire in Colorado, courtesy of 7News and the DenverChannel.com. Original YouTube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iHNKSp_qIDo).

As of Thursday, June 13, 2013 the Black Forest Fire has burned nearly 16,000 acres and destroyed 360 homes. It is now the most destructive fire in Colorado's history (see "Black Forest Fire Turns Deadly: 2 Found Dead In Colorado Springs-Area Fire"). Meanwhile, in another part of Colorado, the Royal Gorge Fire has been declared a disaster (see "Royal Gorge Fire Update: Disaster Declaration Issued Today").

(Civilian Conservation Corps men in Colorado, image courtesy of the Colorado State Archives. Roosevelt's Forest Army stood ready to fight fires.)

During the New Deal, vast fire prevention and fire suppression efforts were implemented. The WPA created 6,337 miles of new firebreaks (Final Report on the WPA Program, 1935-43, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1946). Meanwhile, in the Civilian Conservation Corps, in the National Parks, "Over 414,000 man-days were spent on the work of fire prevention and over 250,000 on fire suppression." In Colorado (on federal and state land), the CCC spent 201,904 man-days fighting fires (Roosevelt's Forest Army: A History of the Civilian Conservation Corp, Perry H. Merrill, 1981). 

So what's happening today? Are we connecting the dots of unemployment with this year's possible record-setting wildfire season...similar to how we did during the New Deal? 

Nope.

But we are cutting the budget of the U.S. Forest Service, thereby diminishing their capability to fight fires. And in September of 2012 Senate Republicans blocked legislation to create a CCC-type program for unemployed veterans--judging such a program wasteful. And we have created the largest prison-industrial complex in the world for future generations to reside in. And the mega-wealthy have hidden trillions of dollars in tax-evading bank accounts with seeming impunity. And House Republicans are burning the midnight oil figuring out ways to cut off food assistance to low-income families and children.

So there is some action going on...unfortunately, little of it has to do with protecting America's natural areas or alleviating unemployment & poverty. In its perpetual search for donors and campaign contributions, Congress has abandoned the country.  

1 comment:

  1. So very true. Seeing and hearing these things just makes me want to through up my hands in despair. Why is common sense just so plain uncommon?

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