Tuesday, September 13, 2016

New Deal fish conservation and propagation

Above: The description for this photograph (ca. 1937-1942) reads, "The man sitting on the platform at the left counts salmon as they use a Bonneville Dam fish ladder to work upstream." The Bonneville Dam was constructed with the assistance of the New Deal's Public Works Administration. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Above: A WPA laborer works on a fish hatchery near Lewiston, Maryland, in November 1937. Across the nation, WPA workers built 161 new fish hatcheries, expanded 135 others, and repaired or improved 159 more (Federal Works Agency, Final Report on the WPA Program 1935-43, p. 132). Photo courtesy of the University of Maryland College Park Archives.

Above: "Fish Market," an etching and aquatint on paper, created by Sarah Berman (1895-1957) while she was in the WPA's art program, ca. 1939. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

New Deal policymakers and workers did much to conserve and propagate fish species. For example, the Civilian Conservation Corps built about 4,600 fish rearing ponds (and maintained nearly 1,200 others), and "stocked streams, ponds, lakes and reservoirs with the enormous number of 972,203,910 fish or fingerlings!" (Federal Security Agency, Final Report of the Director of the Civilian Conservation Corps, April 1933 through June 30, 1942, p. 47).

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has highlighted that a "New Deal for Conservation" occurred during the Roosevelt years. This included the construction of Patuxent Research Refuge in Laurel, Maryland (built in large part with WPA and CCC labor), the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act (1934), and the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act (1937).

Though there were certainly some environmental mistakes during the New Deal (for example, the benefit of predators was not fully appreciated), all the wildlife refuges created, and all the billion of trees planted, and all the millions of bushels of oysters planted, and all the hundreds of millions of fish stocked in ponds, lakes, and rivers, shows that, long before Rachel Carson's highly influential book, Silent Spring, New Deal policymakers and workers were engaging in a massive environmental conservation movement. (Carson, by the way, worked in the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries during the New Deal.)

So, to those who enjoy catching and eating fish (which includes myself), I say: Give a little thanks to the New Deal.

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