30 March 2016

Shelterbelt landscapes

There was a time when the government paid people to plant trees. In response to the Dust Bowl, FDR created the Prairie States Forestry (Shelterbelt) Project, 1935-1942, which used the CCC and WPA to plant windrows and forests. This was an attempt to plant 220 million trees on private lands across the great plains. The map below shows the scale of the efforts. 

Today's Common Lecture by Sara Karle looks back at the project and traces its current remnants.

Implementing the idea was not as easy as it might have seemed. The science behind the ideas evolved with the project, establishing the idea but gradually improving the understanding of what should be planted and where. Congress designated $1,000,000 annually for labor and the rest was handled through cooperative agreements.

Of the first 6 million trees, 4 million were cottonwoods because they were seen as fast growing. This was disaster relief and needed to be quick.

The impact today is a series of unusually wide corridors of mature trees growing across the plains. Check out Scott Drickey's amazing aerial photographs.

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