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By 1925, the North Carolina Geological and Economic Survey took another step in its evolution, becoming the Department of Conservation and Development. The new department consolidated many natural resource functions. Its original focus was on geology, but its involvement in managing many other associated natural resources also grew.
Although the Depression slowed business at all levels, public programs such as the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) were a boon to North Carolina’s natural resource programs. More than 76,000 CCC workers fanned out across the state, constructing fire towers, bridges, erosion control dams and buildings, planting trees and fighting forest fires. Many of the facilities in our state parks built by the CCC are still in use today.
The Division of Forest Resources established its nursery seedling program in 1924, adding a management branch in 1937 and creating a State Parks Program as a branch operation in 1935. A full-time superintendent of State Parks was hired and the stage was set for parks management to develop into division status by 1948.
By the late 1930s, interest had declined in managing the state’s geological and mineral resources, the function that has sparked the organizational push for natural resource management in the first place. Geological and mineralogical investigations at both federal and state levels were poorly supported financially. From 1926-1940, the Division of Mineral Resources was literally a one-man show, operated by the State Geologist.
The war years (1938-1945) provided new impetus for state involvement in managing North Carolina’s geological and mineral resources thanks to the need for minerals to meet wartime shortages.
The state and the U.S. Geological Survey undertook an ambitious cooperative effort in 1941, beginning with a ground water resources study. That effort continued through 1959, when the Department of Water Resources was formed. Also in 1941, North Carolina conducted a far-ranging study of geology and mineral resources in the western regions of North Carolina in cooperation with the Tennessee Valley Authority.
Secretaries of Environment and Natural Resources1