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CCC workers constructing road, 1933.
The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was a public work relief program for unemployed men, providing vocational training through the performance of useful work related to conservation and development of natural resources in the United Statesmarker from 1933 to 1942. As part of the New Deal legislation proposed by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR), the CCC was designed to aid relief of the unemployment resulting from the Great Depression while implementing a general natural resource conservation program on federal, state, county and municipal lands in every U.S. state, including the territories of Alaskamarker, Hawaiimarker, Puerto Rico, and the U.S.marker Virgin Islandsmarker.

The CCC became one of the more popular New Deal programs among the general public, providing economic relief, rehabilitation and training for a total of 3 million men. The CCC also provided a comprehensive work program that combined conservation, renewal, awareness and appreciation of the nation's natural resources. The CCC was never considered a permanent program and depended on emergency and temporary legislation for its existence. On 30 June 1942 Congress voted to terminate funding for the CCC, formally ceasing active operation of the program.

Creation

Modeled after precedent employment-conservation programs in the United States and Europe, FDR initiated creation of the program with his first inaugural address. Legislation to create the program was presented by FDR to the 73rd United States Congress on 21 March 1933: The "Act for the relief of unemployment through performance of useful public works and other purposes," or Emergency Conservation Work (ECW), as it was known, was signed into law by him on 31 March 1933. FDR issued Executive Order 6101 on 5 April 1933 which established the organization and appointed a director, Robert Fechner (Mar. 1933-Dec. 1939). The organization and administration of the CCC was a new experiment in operations for a Federal government agency; the order also indicated that the program was to be supervised jointly by four Cabinet departments: War, Labormarker, Agriculturemarker and Interiormarker, by means of a CCC Advisory Council composed of a representative from each of the supervising departments. In addition the Office of Education and Veterans Administrationmarker participated in the program. Overseeing the advisory council was Director Fechner who had complete authority for CCC affairs.

Early Years, 1933-1934

The mobilization of the program occurred quite rapidly: The ECW Act was signed on 31 March 1933; on 5 April Director Fechner was appointed and War Department corps area commanders were given task to commence enrollment the next day; the first CCC enrollee was selected 7 April and subsequent lists of unemployed men were supplied by state and local welfare and relief agencies for immediate enrollment. On 17 April the first camp was established at George Washington National Forest near Luray, VA., and by 1 July 1933 there were 1,463 working camps with 250,000 junior enrollees (18-25 years of age), 28,000 veterans, 14,000 American Indians, and 25,000 Locally Enrolled Men (LEM). The typical enrolee was a U.S. citizen, unmarried, unemployed male, 18–20 years of age. Each enrollee volunteered, and upon passing a physical exam was required to serve a minimum six month period with the option to serve as much as two years. He lived in a work camp, received $30 a month (with a compulsory allotment $22–25 sent to a dependent) as well as food, clothing and medical care. Veteran qualifications differed from Junior Enrollees; one needed to be certified by the Veterans Administration by application, they could be any age, and married or single as long as they were in need of work. Veterans were mostly assigned to entire veteran camps.

Each CCC camp was located in the general area of conservation work to be performed, and organized around a compliment of up to 200 civilian enrollees in a designated numbered company unit. Each camp had a dual-authority supervisory staff: Department of War personnel, generally Reserve officers (until 1 July 1939), who were responsible for overall camp operation, logistics, education and training; and technical service civilians employed by the Departments of Interior or Agriculture, responsible for the type of field work. The CCC performed 300 possible types of work projects within ten approved general classifications: 1) Structural Improvements: bridges, fire towers, service buildings; 2) Transportation: truck trails, minor roads, foot trails and airport landing fields; 3) Erosion Control: check dams, terracing and vegetable covering; 4) Flood Control: irrigation, drainage, dams, ditching, channel work, riprapping; 5) Forest Culture: planting trees and shrubs, timber stand improvement, seed collection, nursery work; 6) Forest Protection: fire prevention, fire presuppression, fire fighting, insect and disease control; 7) Landscape and Recreation: public camp and picnic ground development, lake and pond site clearing and development; 8) Range: stock driveways, elimination of predatory animals; 9) Wildlife: stream improvement, stocking fish, food and cover planting; 10) Miscellaneous: emergency work, surveys, mosquito control.

The responses to this six month experimental conservation program were enthusiastic, and on 1 October 1933 Director Fechner was instructed arrange for a second period of enrollment. By January 1934, the second year of the CCC program, 300,000 men were enrolled. In July 1934 this cap was increased by 50,000 to include men from drought affected states of the mid-west. The temporary tent camps had also transitioned from tents to wooden barracks. An education program had been established emphasizing job training and literacy.

Approximately 55% of enrollees were from rural communities, a majority of which were non-farm; 45% came from urban. Level of education for the enrollee averaged 3% illiterate, 38% less than eight years' of school, 48% did not complete high school, 11% were high school graduates. At the time of entry, 70% of enrollees were malnourished and poorly clothed. Few had work experience beyond occasional odd jobs. Peace was maintained by the threat of "dishonorable discharge." At the beginning, thousands refused to take the CCC oath of allegiance. "This is a training station we're going to leave morally and physically fit to lick 'Old Man Depression,'" boasted the newsletter of a North Carolinamarker camp.

The total of 200,000 African-American enrollees were segregated completely after 1935 but received equal pay and housing. Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes pressured Director Robert Fechner to appoint African-American to supervisory positions such as education directors in the 143 segregated camps. The separate Indian Division was a major relief force for Native Americans.

Program Expansion, 1935-1936

Responding to favorable public opinion to alleviate unemployment Congress approved the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act of 1935, on 8 April 1935, which included continued funding for the CCC program through 31 March, 1937. The age limit was also expanded to 18-28 to include more men. From 1 April 1935 to 31 March 1936 was the period of greatest activity and work accomplished by the CCC program. Enrollment had peaked at 505,782 in about 2,900 camps by 31 August 1935, followed by a reduction to 350,000 enrollees in 2,019 camps by 30 June 1936. During this period the public response to the CCC program was overwhelmingly popular. A Gallup poll of 18 April 1936, asked "Are you in favor of the CCC camps?"; 82% of respondents said yes, including 92% of Democrats and 67% of Republicans.

Change of Purpose, 1937-1938

On 28 June 1937 the Civilian Conservation Corps was legally established, transferred from its original designation as the Emergency Conservation Work program. Funding was also extended for three more years through Public No. 163, 75th Congress, effective 1 July 1937. Congress changed the age limits from 17-23 years old, and eliminated the requirement that enrollees be on relief, instead "not regularly in attendance at school, or possessing full time employment." The 1937 law, in addition to providing employment and performance of useful work made the inclusion of vocational and academic training a mandatory minimum of 10 hours per week, to provide enrollees with necessary training for employment after discharge. In addition, enrollment was extended to those without dependents; orphans could make an "enrollee deposit" with the Army finance officer earning 5% interest returned in full at discharge or in emergency. Another change allowed for those in school to be enrolled during (summer) vacation.

Conservation to Defense, 1939-1940

On 30 June 1939 legislation ceased the CCC program to be an independent agency, transferred to the Federal Security Agency along with the Social Security Board, National Youth Administration, U.S. Employment Service, the Office of Education and the Works Progress Administration. About 5,000 Reserve officers for the camps were affected, transferred to Civil Service and military ranks and titles were eliminated. Despite this loss of an obvious military leadership in the camps by July of 1940, with war in Europe and Asia, an increasing number of CCC projects focused on resources for national defence, developing infrastructure for military training facilities and forest protection. By 1940 the CCC was no longer wholly a relief agency, rapidly losing its non-military character, and becoming a system for work-training as its ranks had become increasingly younger, with life-inexperienced enrollees.

Decline and Disbandment 1941-1942

Although the CCC was probably the most popular New Deal program, it never became a permanent agency. The program had been reduced in operations as the Depression waned and employment opportunities improved. Fewer eligible young men were available after conscription commenced in 1940. Following the attack on Pearl Harbormarker in December 1941 all federal programs were revised to emphasize the war effort. Most CCC work, except for wildland firefighting, was shifted onto U.S. military bases to help with construction. The CCC disbanded one year earlier than planned, as the 77th United States Congress ceased funding, causing it to conclude operations formally at the end of the federal fiscal year on June 30, 1942. The end of the CCC program and closing of the camps involved arrangements to leave the incomplete work projects in the best possible state, the separation of about 1,800 appointed employees, the transfer of CCC property to the War and Navy Departments and other agencies, and the preparation of final accountability records. Liquidation of the CCC was ordered by Congress by the Labor-Federal Security Appropriation Act (56 Stat. 569) on 2 July 1942; and virtually completed on 30 June 1943. Liquidation appropriations for the CCC continued through 20 April 1948.

Some former CCC sites in good condition were reactivated from 1941 to 1947 as Civilian Public Service camps where conscientious objectors performed "work of national importance" as an alternative to military service. Other camps were used to hold Japanese internees or German prisoners of war. After the CCC disbanded, the federal agencies responsible for administration of public lands organized their own seasonal fire crews, modeled after the CCC, which performed a firefighting function formerly done by the CCC and provided the same sort of outdoor work experience for young people.

Indian Division

The CCC operated an entirely separate division for members of federally recognized Indian tribes: the Indian Emergency Conservation Work, IECW, or CCC-ID. It brought Native men from reservations to work on roads, bridges, clinics, shelters, and other public works near their reservations. The CCC often provided the only paid work in remote reservations. Enrollees had to be between the ages of 17 and 35 years. During 1933 about half the male heads of households on the Sioux reservations in South Dakotamarker, for example, were employed by the CCC-ID. Thanks to grants from the Public Works Administration (PWA), the Indian Division built schools and operated an extensive road-building program in and around many reservations. IECW differed from other CCC activities in that it explicitly trained men to be carpenters, truck drivers, radio operators, mechanics, surveyors, and technicians. A total of 85,000 Natives were enrolled. This proved valuable human capital for the 24,000 Natives who served in the military and the 40,000 who left the reservations for war jobs.

The Civilian Conservation Corps Legacy

A CCC pillowcase on display at the CCC Museum in Michigan.
The original CCC was ended during 1942, but it became a model for state agencies that were implemented during the 1970s. Present day corps are national, state and local programs that engage primarily youth and young adults (ages 16–25) in community service, training and educational activities. The nation’s approximate 113 corps programs operate in 41 states and the District of Columbiamarker. During 2004, they enrolled more than 23,000 young people. The Corps Network, known originally as the National Association of Service and Conservation Corps (NASCC) works to expand and enhance corps-type programs throughout the country. The Corps Network began during 1985, when the nation's first 24 Corps directors banded together to secure an advocate at the Federal level and a repository of information on how best to start and manage a corps. Early financial assistance from the Ford, Hewlett and Mott Foundations was critical to establishing the association.

Another similar program is the National Civilian Community Corps, part of the AmeriCorps program, a team-based national service program to which 18- to 24-year-olds dedicate 10 months of their time annually.

Student Conservation Association

The CCC program became a model for the creation of team-based national service youth conservation programs such as the Student Conservation Association (SCA). The SCA, founded during 1957, is a nonprofit organization that offers conservation internships and summer trail crew opportunities to more than 3,000 people each year. The SCA mission is to build a new generation of conservation managers by inspiring lifelong stewardship of the environment and communities by engaging high school and college-age volunteers in hands-on service to the land. SCA program is active nation-wide in the USA, including national and state parks, forests, wildlife refuges, seashores and historic sites. SCA National Headquarters is located in Charlestown, New Hampshiremarker with regional offices across the country.

E-Corps

Established during 1995 Environmental Corps (E-Corps) is an American YouthWorks program which allows youth, ages 17 to 28, to contribute to the restoration and preservation of parks and public lands in Texas. The only conservation corps in Texas, E-Corps is a 501(c)3 non profit corporation based in Austin, Texasmarker, which serves the entire state. Their work ranges from disaster relief to trail building to habitat restoration. E-Corps has done projects in national, state and city parks.

California Conservation Corps

During 1976, the Governor Jerry Brown of Californiamarker established the California Conservation Corps. This new program differed drastically from the original CCC as its goal was primarily youth development rather than economic revival. Now it is the largest, oldest and longest-running youth conservation organization in the world.

Montana Conservation Corps

The Montana Conservation Corps (MCC) is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization with a mission to equip young people with the skills and values to be vigorous citizens who improve their communities and environment. Each year the MCC engages more than 120 corps members in service projects. Collectively, MCC crews contribute more than 90,000 volunteer hours each year. The MCC was established during 1991 by Montanamarker's Human Resource Development Councils in Billingsmarker, Bozemanmarker and Kalispellmarker. Originally, it was a summer program for disadvantaged youth, although it has grown into an AmeriCorps-sponsored non-profit organization with six regional offices that serve Montana, Idahomarker, Wyomingmarker, and Northmarker and South Dakotamarker. All regions also offer MontanaYES (Youth Engaged in Service) summer programs for teenagers who are 14 to 16 years old.

Washington Conservation Corps

The Washington Conservation Corps (WCC) is a subagency of the Washingtonmarker State Department of Ecology. It employs men and women 18 to 25 years old in a program to protect and enhance Washington's natural resources. WCC is a part of the AmeriCorps program.

Minnesota Conservation Corps

The Minnesota Conservation Corps provides environmental stewardship and service-learning opportunities to youth and young adults while accomplishing conservation, natural resource management projects and emergency response work through its Young Adult Program and the Summer Youth Program. These programs emphasize the development of job and life skills by conservation and community service work.

Vermont Youth Conservation Corps

The Vermont Youth Conservation Corps (VYCC) is a non-profit, youth service and education organization that hires Corps Members, aged 16–24, to work on high-priority conservation projects in Vermont. Through these work projects, Corps Members develop a strong work ethic, strengthen their leadership skills, and learn how to take personal responsibility for their actions. VYCC Crews work at VT State Parks, U.S. Forest Service Campgrounds, in local communities, and throughout the state's backcountry.

Southwest Conservation Corps

The Southwest Conservation Corps (SCC) is a non-profit employment, job training, and education organization with locations in Durangomarker and Alamosa, Coloradomarker, and Tucson, Arizonamarker. SCC formed as a merger of the Southwest Youth Corps and the Youth Corps of Southern Arizona.

SCC hires young adults ages 14 to 25 and organizes them into crews emphasizing the completion of conservation projects on public lands. Corpsmembers work, learn and commonly camp in teams of six under the supervision of two professional crew leaders.

Grassroots Reactivation of the USCCC

See www.wecantakeit.org for details.

Civilian Conservation Corps Museums



CCC notables



Legacy

In several cities where CCC workers worked, statues were erected to commemorate their presence.

See also



References



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