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Photo of tree planting crew, circa 1930s
CCC tree planting crew, ca 1930s

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Ironworld Discovery Center
A Local Legacy

Why would a state need millions of trees? In Minnesota it was because much of the land had been mined for iron ore and was stripped bare of trees and other forms of nature.

So, in the 1930s, during the Great Depression, a federal government program called the Civilian Conservation Corps planted more than 25 million trees in Minnesota. More than 4,000 men between the ages of 18 and 25 were hired for the project. In addition to the trees, the Corps workers built hundreds of miles of hiking trails, roads, and canoe ports that citizens have come to love.

Even though they planted trees to restore the land, Minnesota wanted to preserve the history of its iron ranges, so it established the Ironwood Discovery Center in Chisholm. Open-pit mining was a big business in Minnesota until the mid-1970s. In 1900, the Mesabi Iron Range was the largest iron-mining area in the world, and during World War II, Minnesota produced more than 75 percent of the iron used in the war effort. As the iron deposits ran out, another form of mining replaced it, which extracts iron in a complicated mechanized process. The end of the open pits also spelled the end of a way of life for many Minnesotans. The Discovery Center helps people learn about that period.

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