The Lungs of Our Land

The Fireside—News and Views from The Living New Deal

The Lungs of Our Land

In 1937, in a letter to the nation’s governors, President Franklin Roosevelt wrote: “Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people.”
Forests played a major part in the New Deal. FDR’s “Tree Army,” the Civilian Conservation Corps, enlisted millions of young men to fight wildfires, replant forests and restore spent land. The lesser known Resettlement Administration (RA), enacted in 1935, (later renamed the Farm Securities Administration) aspired to house the thousands displaced by the Dust Bowl and made jobless by the Great Depression. The RA’s town planners envisioned affordable, well-built homes surrounded by “green belts” of fields and forests. Congress considered the plan socialist and cut off funding. Only three “greenbelt towns” were built. With the climate and housing prices wildly overheated, the New Deal vision might offer the “fresh strength” we need today.

Susan Ives is communications director for the Living New Deal and editor of the Living New Deal newsletter.

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New Deal Maps

Check out our latest map and guide to the work of the New Deal in Washington, D.C. It includes 500 New Deal sites in the District alone, highlighting 34 notable sites, and includes an inset map of the area around the National Mall which can be used for self-guided walking tours.

Take a look at our previous guides, equally comprehensive, covering key New Deal sites in San Francisco and New York City.