Minnesota News Connection

May 27, 2020

Economic Recovery Could Take Cue from Depression-Era Program

Mike Moen

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Jobless rates have soared in Minnesota and across the country as a result of the pandemic, and conservation groups say bringing back a public works program from the Great Depression might ease some of the economic pain in 2020 and beyond.

The National Wildlife Federation says Congress should create a new Civilian Conservation Corps to address overdue maintenance issues at public parks and on public lands. Brad Gausman, executive director of the Minnesota Conservation Federation, said opportunities are endless to pay younger adults to fan out across the region for these projects.

“We have four different watersheds that leave our state,” he said, “and so doing things like helping to lessen stream erosion; going into our state parks, you know, there’s a backlog of work that needs to be done.”

He noted that the original program, which ran from 1933 to 1942, helped with reforestation in northern Minnesota following the logging boom, and with dam-building at Itasca State Park. The state’s unemployment rate has topped 8%, and Gausman said younger adults who could easily transition to this type of work could get new projects off the ground.

The pandemic also has created a budget deficit of more than $2 billion for Minnesota as the state faces declining revenues. Collin O’Mara, president and chief executive of the National Wildlife Federation, said these are jobs that could provide an economic spark to communities across the region.

“You can put people to work, you can expand their opportunities, you can make communities more resilient, you can help the outdoor economy,” he said. “It puts a ton of folks to work in urban centers; it puts a ton of folks to work in rural areas.”

He said these workers also could help with projects to restore natural habitats for the more than 300 endangered species in Minnesota, and to stop the growing threat of aquatic invasive species in waterways.

More information is online at nytimes.com.