CHICAGO — They built limestone aqueducts in the Dan Ryan Woods and dug out the Skokie Lagoons one shovel at a time. At Starved Rock State Park, they raised lodges, and along the I&M Canal, they extended dozens of bridges. They carved out trails and cleared campgrounds and planted billions of trees, and they did all of this as part of their time in the Civilian Conservation Corps, a widely popular New Deal program now being re-imagined for the 21st century.
In President Joe Biden’s January executive order aimed at addressing the climate crisis, there was a call for the creation of a Civilian Climate Corps. The modern CCC would employ Americans “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.”
The $2 trillion infrastructure plan introduced at the end of March included $10 billion for a corps. Multiple CCC-esque bills have also been introduced in Congress, including the Renew Conservation Corps Act by U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, with a parallel bill from U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush, both Illinois Democrats.