July 21, 2009

This program highlights the California Conservation Corps. Our guests are Jimmy Camp, Director of Communications for the state organization and Keith Welch, the local Chico director of the CCC projects in our region.

Background on Conservation Corps

Under the legislation signed by President Obama in April of this year, the United States government’s AmeriCorps service program will triple in size during the next eight years. About 75,000 AmeriCorps volunteers work on community projects, including education, environmental cleanup and assisting the poor. At the signing of the $5.7 billion bill, the President said, “What this legislation does, then, is to help harness this patriotism and connect deeds to needs. It creates opportunities to serve for students, seniors and everyone in between,” he said.

Reprinted in “AARP Bulletin Today” is a July 2, 2008, Chicago Tribune article by John McCormick about the current desire in the Obama administration, which has bipartisan support, to initiate national service and volunteerism sponsored by the government.

“From Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy to Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, presidents and those who aspire to be president have long put forth calls for greater public service. Some found success, while others fell short of their lofty rhetoric.

Roosevelt formed the Civilian Conservation Corps and Kennedy created the Peace Corps with strong support and participation, while Clinton’s AmeriCorps has never fully realized its full potential, hampered by ongoing funding struggles since its 1994 inception.

Still, as Sen. Barack Obama called for greater public service Wednesday, some experts predict the potential now exists for programs seeking an expansion of volunteerism to succeed, despite a slumping economy and the nation being at war.

Stephen Goldsmith, a former Indianapolis mayor who is now chairman of the Corporation for National and Community Service said  surveys show today’s youth, a group sometimes called the “9/11 generation,” is deeply attracted to service and has maintained that interest, even as it has fallen off for other age groups following the attacks in 2001.[…]

Obama outlined several proposals to boost service, both at home and abroad, during a speech in Colorado Springs.

“Loving your country shouldn’t just mean watching fireworks on the 4th of July,” he said. “Loving your country must mean accepting your responsibility to do your part to change it. If you do, your life will be richer, our country will be stronger.””

Franklin Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps has provided the model of subsequent efforts to build a national service program. From Wikipedia comes this brief history of the Civilian Conservation Corps:


“The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was a public work relief program for unemployed men, focused on natural resource conservation 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 high unemployment stemming from the Great Depression while carrying out a broad natural resource conservation program on national, state and municipal lands. […]The CCC became one of the most popular New Deal programs among the general public and operated in every U.S. state and the territories of Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. […]General Douglas MacArthur had General George C. Marshall organize the Corps.

Members lived in camps, wore uniforms, and lived under quasi-military discipline. At the time of entry, 70% of enrollees were malnourished and poorly clothed. Very few had more than a year of high school education; few had work experience beyond occasional odd jobs. The peace was maintained by the threat of “dishonorable discharge.” There were no reported revolts or strikes. “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 Carolina camp.  [. . . .]

Initially, the CCC was limited to young men age 18 to 25 whose fathers were on relief. Average enrollees were ages 18-19. Two exceptions to the age limits were veterans and Indians, who had a special CCC program and their own camps. In 1937, Congress changed the age limits to 17 to 28 years old and dropped the requirement that enrollees be on relief.”

From NW Travel Magazine Online comes this description of some of the accomplishments of the ‘30s and ‘40s CCC:


The CCC worked on improving millions of acres of federal and state lands, as well as parks. New roads were built, telephone lines strung, and trees planted.

CCC projects included:

# more than 3,470 fire towers erected;

# 97,000 miles of fire roads built;

# 4,235,000 man-days devoted to fighting fires;

# more than 3 billion trees planted;

# 7,153,000 man days expended on protecting the natural habitats of wildlife; 83 camps in 15 Western states assigned 45 projects of that nature;

# 46 camps assigned to work under the direction of the U.S. Bureau of Agriculture Engineering;

# more than 84,400,000 acres of good agricultural land receive manmade drainage systems; Indian enrollees do much of that work;

# 1,240,000 man-days of emergency work completed during floods of the Ohio and Mississippi valleys;

# disease and insect control;

# forest improvement — timber stand inventories, surveying, and reforestation;

# forest recreation development — campgrounds built, complete with picnic shelters, swimming pools, fireplaces, and restrooms.

In addition, 500 camps were under the control of the Soil Conservation Service. The primary work of those camps was erosion control. The CCC also made outstanding contributions to the development of recreational facilities in national, state, county, and metropolitan parks.

Today, there are a number of Conservation Corps operating throughout the United States., including

  • The Montana Conservation Corps, established in 1991, began as a summer program serving disadvantaged youth[…].
  • The Washington Conservation Corps (WCC) […]a subagency of the Washington State Department of Ecology. It employs men and women 18 to 25 years old in an outreach program to protect and enhance Washington’s natural resources.
  • The Minnesota Conservation Corps [providing] 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
  • The Vermont Youth Conservation Corps […] that hires Corps Members, aged 16-24, to work on high-priority conservation projects in Vermont. VYCC Crews work at VT State Parks, U.S. Forest Service Campgrounds, in local communities, and throughout the state’s backcountry.
  • The Southwest Conservation Corps (SCC) […] with locations in Durango and Alamosa, Colorado, and Tucson, Arizona and hires young adults ages 14 to 25 and organizes them into crews focused on completing conservation projects on public lands.
  • And the California Conservation Corps, which is the largest, oldest and longest-running youth conservation organization in the world

Our Questions for Jimmy Camp, Communications Director of the California Conservation Corps.

1. Please tell us about the the California Conservation Corps. What are its goals? When and how did it begin? How large is it? Who is involved?

2. What do you see as the advantages of the CCC to the young people who participate? What are the advantages to the community?

3. What kinds of projects does the CCC engage in? What projects have especially impressed you or been especially interesting?

4. How is the California budget crisis affecting the California Conservation Corps? What are some of your biggest concerns?

5. How can community organizations and young people get involved in CCC activities? And how can the interested citizen learn more about Corps activities?

Our Questions for Keith Welch, Director of the Chico-Area CCC.

1. How long has CCC been operating in Chico?

2. How many people are involved?

3. What sorts of projects has CCC taken on in Chico? How are those projects selected?

4. What are the current projects?

5. What do you consider some of the more successful or interesting projects the local CCC has undertaken?

6. Describe a typical day or week for a CCC participant.

7. What are the benefits of working with CCC?

Do-It-Yourself Conservation Activism

If you go onto the web to search for volunteer opportunities you will be rewarded with hundreds, if not thousands, of options. One of the best sites for international service opportunities is Go Global! The International Careers Website coordinated by Global Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Many of the opportunities for service, they warn, “require a rather hefty fee.”


Although a few of the sites they include are directed toward students, there are many opportunities for language learning and teaching, cross cultural understanding, humanitarian service, and environmental aid. Some of the latter include

  • Earthwatch  (www.earthwatch.org), which promotes sustainable conservation of national resources and cultural heritage;
  • Ecovolunteer (www.ecovolunteer.org), which combines tourism and efforts to help protect nature and its inhabitants by working with local organizations.
  • Rainforest Action Network  (www.ran.org), which involves activists in working locally to solve international problems.

A site called Volunteer Match  (www.volunteermatch.org) offers thousands of volunteer opportunities online.

When we entered our zipcode—95965—and our interest—the environment—weI received several suggestions for volunteer work. A project for youth called the Nicodemus Wilderness Project (http://www.wildernessproject.org/volunteer_apprentice_ecologist)encourages youngsters to become Apprentice Ecologists.

Here’s what they do:

The goals of the Apprentice Ecologist Initiativeâ„¢ (officially recognized by the U.S. EPA) are to elevate young people into leadership roles by engaging them in environmental stewardship projects, empower youth to rebuild the environmental and social well-being of our communities, and improve local living conditions for both citizens and wildlife. Trash spoils nature’s beauty, harms and kills wildlife, and provides habitat for disease-carrying pests. We need your help to Clean-It-Up!

Here’s how to become an official Apprentice Ecologist:

1. Plan and take a trip (with help from your family, friends, or teachers*) to a mountain, river, shoreline, beach, park, or wilderness area.

2. Pick up trash and take a few high-resolution digital photos** of your environmental project in action.

3. Register and upload your essay and best project photo to the Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists.

After completing steps 1-3, we will publish your essay in the Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists and provide links to download/print an official Certificate of Achievement and Apprentice Ecologist heat transfer (for T-shirt). A large NWP canvas tote bag (made in the USA with 100% certified organic cotton) will be awarded to the authors of the 10 best essays on an annual basis. A $500 scholarship will be awarded annually to the author of the top Apprentice Ecologist essay.

Other suggestions from Volunteer Match include Volunteer Thursdays in Bidwell Park, as well as a couple of projects from Florida and Pennsylvania that can be conducted locally—Watch the Wild (http://www.natureabounds.org/watchthewild/index.htm) and Planting Peace (http://www.plantingpeace.org/volunteer.php). You can find links to these programs on our website ecotopiakzfr.net.

Playlist for Ecotopia #42    California Conservation Corps

1. You’re My Hero       3:32   lunatic crash  ‘born to be free’+the new ep for free

2. Help!       2:19   Fab Again  A Tribute to the Beatles (Volume I)

3. With a Little Help from My Friends        5:13   Joe Cocker    Joe Cocker: The Anthology

4. Teach Your Children  3:02   Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young  Four Way Street

5. You’ve Got a Friend    4:33   James Taylor    Mud Slide Slim & The Blue Horizon

6. Weave Me the Sunshine      4:28   Peter, Paul And Mary    The Very Best of Peter, Paul and Mary

7. Lean On Me     4:24   Al Jarreau    Ain’t No Sunshine

8. Pollution 4:50   Basskick    Sound Of The Nature – Collection 5

9. Powerhouse      2:56   Don Byron   Bug Music

10. untitled      4:11       The Tiptons Sax Quartet   Laws Of Motion