By: Lindsey Rainer
The California Conservation Corps is a state agency, established by Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. in 1976, that employs young people ages 18-25 with efforts towards improving California’s natural resources. Modeled after the federal Civilian Conservation Corps created in 1933 by President Franklin Roosevelt, it is the oldest and largest state conservation corps program in the country.
Much of the program’s vision and values are based on those of the Civilian Conservation Corps. This full-scale national agency was implemented by President Franklin Roosevelt, just three weeks after he took office in March of 1933, to provide jobs for unemployed young men, veterans, and minorities as well as to relieve families who had struggled finding work during the Great Depression. He believed that the Civilian Corps would serve as, “…simple work, not interfering with normal employment, and confining itself to forestry, the prevention of soil erosion, flood control, and similar projects” and noted to “…the fact that this type of work isn’t definite, practical value, not only through the prevention of great present financial loss, but also as means of creating future national wealth.” Over its nine years of operation, from 1933 to 1942, over three million young men participated in the corps, which provided them with food, shelter, clothes and academic and vocational training. Earning a small wage of about $30 a month, the men would sent $25 of their pay back home to their families. During its service, enrollees planted nearly three billion trees, constructed trails, lodges, and other facilities in more than 800 parks nationwide, including Big Basin and Mt. Diablo, and built a network of public roadways in remote areas.
The legacy of the Civilian Conservation Corps is what inspired Governor Brown to form the California Conservation Corps. He envisioned the program as “a combination Jesuit seminary, Israeli kibbutz and Marine Corps boot camp.” Since 1976, more than 120,000 young men and women have served for the CCC.
For one whole year, a crew of 10 to 15 young men and women work on a variety of projects, sponsored by state, city, county, and federal agencies, as well as non-profit organizations, schools, and private industry. earning minimum wage and bonuses for extended hours. These jobs include: landscaping and park development, trail maintenance, repair, and construction, fire hazard reduction, energy auditing, tree planting, erosion control efforts, fish and wildlife resources, solar lighting and water heater installation, forest and timber management, and much more. Crew members also respond to natural disasters that occur in surrounding areas like floods, fires, earthquakes, oil spills, and pest infestations.
There are also opportunities to work in different parts of California, and even across the world. For example, the Backcountry Trails Program, established in 1979, is a special five month program within the California Conservation Corps that assembles six crews of men and women, ages 18 to 26, who learn through experience the skills of trail maintenance and construction in wilderness work sites such as Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and other national parks. Members can also join the International Work Exchange Program with Conservation Volunteers Australia, a 9 week program based in cities such as Melbourne, Adelaide, and Sydney as well as the outback that focuses on conservation projects like erosion and salinity control, tree planting, seed collection, invasive species removal, endangered flora and fauna surveys and monitoring, weed control, habitat restoration, and heritage protection.
Joining the California Conservation Corps is a great way to work outdoors, earn a paycheck, advance your education, learn basic jobs skills and make progress towards a career. Many alumni go onto jobs as firefighters, trail workers, park rangers, teachers, police officers, solar panel installers, and small business owners. This experience helps expand and evaluate future careers options for members, and along with the two potentially awarded scholarships, totaling a considerable $11,000, can support the continuation of education and training. Their mission statement is, “The young women and men of the Corps work hard protecting and restoring California’s environment and responding to disasters, becoming stronger workers, citizens and individuals through their service.” If you are interested in becoming a member, feel free to visit their website at http://www.ccc.ca.gov/ and click on the link Join.