The 1931 Dust Bowl

By Julia Benfield and Makenna Schroeder

What is the Dust Bowl?

Also known as the dirty thirties, the Dust Bowl was a period of dust storms that lasted for around a decade. Over the years, it greatly damaged the economy and agriculture of the U.S and Canadian prairies in the 1930's.

At this time the ground had already been going through a severe drought, and lack of dry land farming methods created loose topsoil which the wind easily picked up. When this occurred, the winds formed into black dust clouds called "Black Blizzards."

What was the ecological impact?

Ranchers and farmers of the early 19th century used the land for livestock grazing until agriculture mechanization combined high grain prices during World War 1 contributed to farmers plowing up millions of acres of grass cover just to plant wheat. This action mixed with dry weather created the massive dust storm. In 1940, around 2.5 million people had left the regions effected by the Dust Bowl, which include a 150,000 square mile area stretching over the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles. Also stretching in the sections of Kansas, Colorado, and New Mexico.Although some survived, around 500 people died of pneumonia, malnutrition, or were suffocated by the dust. Most of the families and children had to be forced out of there lands to find somewhere else to work since the dust storms took over there farms.

How was the restoration effort?

The storms went on for 8 years, 1931 to 1939. In 1935 president Franklin D. Roosevelt passes the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act, which provides $525 million for drought relief. In 1937, Roosevelt addresses the nation with a second Act stating, "I see one-third of the nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished... it is not whether we add to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little." His project soon begins, it is called for large-scale planting of trees across the Great Plains, stretching in a 100 mile wide zone from Canada to north Texas. Extensive work, such as, re-plowing the land into furrows, planting trees, and other conservation methods resulted in 65% reduction in soil blowing, but the drought still continued. In fall of 1939, rain finally comes, bringing an end to the drought. During the next few years the country is pulled out of depression and the land becomes once again golden with wheat.