Briefly noted: ‘The Civilian Conservation Corps in Glacier National Park, Montana’ by David R. Butler

“Another major experiment which affected Glacier was also to affect many other national parks. The program was part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal and was called the Civilian Conservation Corps. In 1933, almost immediately after this program’s enactment, young men from all over the United States were organized into work crews in camps in national parks and forests. Responding to the Depression economy and vast unemployment, Roosevelt intended this labor to enhance the conservation of natural resources while providing a livelihood for indigent young men. Nationwide, over a thousand camps organized by the Army employed some three hundred thousand young men, and in Glacier, some sixteen hundred enrollees arrived and eight camps were established in 1933.” – C. W. Buchholtz in Man in Glacier, 1976, Glacier Natural History Association

Those of us who became addicted to Glacier National Park over half a century ago, learned more about the park by reading books and monographs published by the former Glacier Natural History Association, for which I was a volunteer, that drew on the expertise of those whom I consider the first generation of modern-day park historians including Jack Holterman, Clyde Lockwood, Curt Buchholtz,  Michael J. Ober, and others. For today’s generation, I should add David R. Butler (Fire Lookouts of Glacier National Park) to that evolving list for providing another readable chapter to the park’s knowledge with the current volume released by Arcadia Publishing in February.

From the Publisher

“The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), one of the most successful of all New Deal programs, was heavily involved in creating and improving the infrastructure of Glacier National Park. Between 1933 and 1942, a total of thirteen CCC camps were located on both sides of the Continental Divide that bisects the park roughly from north to south. CCC-I.D. (Indian Division) camps also existed along the eastern edge of the park on the Blackfeet Reservation. CCC “boys” were employed in fighting forest fires and clearing areas of burned trees, clearing brush and debris, sawing logs, creating trails, building fire lookout towers, constructing Park Service buildings, assisting with bridge construction, and building phone lines to connect east and west sides of the park. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt visited in August 1934 and gave one of his famous radio “fireside chats” from the park, in which he praised the efforts of the CCC in helping improve the country’s national parks. Chapters examine CCC camp life, the nature of the work carried out by the CCC boys, structures built in the park by the CCC, and FDR’s visit.”

In his April 6 review for the Hungry Horse News, Chris Peterson wrote, “You can’t drive into the west entrance of Glacier National Park without seeing the work of the Civilian Conservation Corps. They not only replanted the entire surrounding forest, they built the entrance station itself.”

And yet, most of today’s visitors come and go without knowing of the tremendous influence of the CCC on all aspects of the park, second only to the work done by the Great Northern Railway’s hotel company. I’m very pleased to see this new book by Butler (who’s been in the park almost as long as I have) who sees it with a professional vision and love of history.

The book will have an impact on you because the more you know about Glacier National Park, the more you love it and understand the constant hard work it has taken–and will continue to take–to preserve it.


Malcolm R. Campbell writes fiction set in the park. Unfortunately, his only nonfiction contribution is out of print.