If you’ve ever visited Lake Taghkanic in Columbia County, you may have noticed the groves of stately pines, planted in orderly rows. They’re the work of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), a work-relief program that was one of the most successful initiatives of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, providing employment to nearly 3 million destitute young men during the Great Depression. So were the campgrounds at North/South Lake and Devil’s Tombstone in the Catskills, along with many a mile of hiking trails throughout the Hudson Valley. African American CCC workers in several segregated camps in Orange County’s Black Dirt country worked on flood-control projects along the Wallkill River. Eleanor Roosevelt even established a short-lived all-female camp at what is now Bear Mountain.
Though overshadowed by his other accomplishments in fighting the Depression and World War II, FDR’s record as a conservationist rivals that of his cousin Teddy. Under his administration, dozens of State Park systems and scenic roadways were built from scratch and hundreds of federal migratory bird refuges established. Pristine landscapes such as the Great Smokies, the Everglades, Joshua Tree, the Olympics, Big Bend, Channel Islands, Mammoth Cave and the slickrock wilderness of Utah were forever saved by his leadership.
Presidential historian and Rice University professor Douglas Brinkley, who has already documented Theodore Roosevelt’s environmental legacy in The Wilderness Warrior, has a new book out that turns the spotlight on FDR’s accomplishments as a protector of public lands and wildlife. Titled Rightful Heritage: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Land of America, the book’s release is timed to coincide with the 2016 centennial of the National Park Service.
The Henry A. Wallace Center at the FDR Presidential Library and Home will host a talk and book-signing with Brinkley – a Roosevelt Library trustee and frequent speaker at the historic site – beginning at 7 p.m. on Monday, March 14. The event is free and open to the public.
And on Thursday, March 10, also at 7 p.m., Anya Luscombe – associate professor of Media at University College Roosevelt in the Netherlands and a former BBC journalist – will be the FDR Library’s guest for a conversation titled “Listening to the Roosevelts: Eleanor Roosevelt, First Lady of Radio.” Eleanor Roosevelt became a prominent radio personality during the 1930s and ’40s, commenting on news events and public policy in countless interviews and hosting several current events programs. The program will include selected audio recordings of Eleanor as she talks about the United Nations and a range of public issues during some of her early Cold War broadcasts.
For more information about either program, phone (845) 486-7745, e-mail [email protected] or visit www.fdrlibrary.marist.edu. The FDR Library’s Wallace Center is located at 4079 Albany Post Road (Route 9) in Hyde Park.