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The Meaning of the Mountains: Vermont Contemplates New Deal Conservation

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11/07/2005

During the tumultuous decade of the 1930s, Vermonters were faced with a full spectrum of federal plans for preserving the most vulnerable of Vermont's mountains and forests. Some of these proposals integrated sweeping social reforms into their plans for preserving mountain land, while others focused more directly on protecting the sustainability of Vermont's timber industry, and still others sought to promote a tourist industry in the Green Mountains. These projects - and the state and local reactions to them - elicited a range of discussions about nature and the state in Depression-era Vermont. The accompanying offers of federal expertise and funding forced state policy makers to take a public position on issues relating to conservation, relief programs, and economic planning that helped to define the career of George Aiken. This talk focuses on state-level negotiations over two federal projects that were roughly contemporaneous with the Green Mountain Parkway: the Resettlement Administration's Farm-to-Forest Program and the expansion of the Green Mountain National Forest. Both the rhetoric surrounding these projects and their very different outcomes suggest how much was at stake during the New Deal as the different levels of government sought to combat the economic decline of the 1930s. Sara M. Gregg is an environmental historian and assistant professor of history at Iowa State University. She is putting the finishing touches on the manuscript for her first book, "Contested Commons: Subsistence Farms, the New Deal, and the Creation of a Federal Landscape in Appalachia."

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