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Spotlight: Experience the Civilian Conservation Corps

Spotlight: Experience the Civilian Conservation Corps

The CCC and the National Wildlife Refuge System: Revisiting America’s Largest Conservation Effort

Bombay The work that the CCC did years ago resulted in improved wildlife habitats that still exist today. (Karen Dever/Share the Experience)

What You’ll Find

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) worked on many projects within the National Wildlife Refuge System of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, improving wildlife habitat and assisting in the creation of infrastructure. Corps members constructed dams, dikes and other flood control systems, planted millions of trees and other vegetation, built fire towers, roads, telephone lines and numerous other support structures. The presence of the CCC brought attention and much needed resources to the fledgling refuge system. Check out the following video presentation of the CCC in action on our refuge lands.

Today, a new 21st Century Conservation Service Corps builds upon the historical achievements of the CCC through partnerships with state and non-profit programs and other conservation organizations. The Youth in the Great Outdoors initiative seeks to engage young people from diverse backgrounds and develop in them an ethic of environmental stewardship and civic responsibility while acquiring knowledge, job skills and exposure to career pathways in natural and cultural resource management.

What Is It?

The CCC was established 80 years ago for the dual purpose of managing natural resource areas and providing employment to America’s young men. President Franklin D. Roosevelt introduced legislation providing for the creation of the CCC on March 21, 1933.

The CCC recruited young men between the ages of 18-25 who were unmarried and unemployed. For $30 a month, Corps members labored on a variety of projects for the conservation, protection, or improvement of the nation’s natural resources. By the time the CCC was terminated in 1942, 4,500 camps had been established employing over 3.4 million Corps members. Learn more about the history of the CCC program.

Getting There

The CCC was involved in conservation efforts at about 50 National Wildlife Refuges across the country, many of which possess intact CCC camp buildings. Even if your local refuge does not have CCC buildings, pay a visit to appreciate the conservation efforts of the CCC at a National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) near you.

Try This

Explore the great outdoors at these refuges while discovering the heritage of the CCC.

  • At Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in Utah, most of the construction was the work of the CCC who built the administration building, duck hospital, garage, observation tower, two residences and an extensive canal system.
  • Delaware’s Bombay Hook NWR, one of the largest remaining tracts of tidal salt marsh in the mid-Atlantic, was one of three National Wildlife Refuges to be served by an all-African-American CCC camp. Read more about Bombay Hook’s history.
  • The CCC constructions at Malheur NWR in Oregon include the Refuge Headquarters, the Frenchglen Hotel, Center Patrol Road, State Highway 205, several dams and many miles of canals, all of which are still used today.
  • Between 1933 and 1941, three CCC camps were established at Witchita Mountains NWR in Oklahoma. Many of the structures built by these Corps members are standing today and used as a Job Corps Training Center.

Did You Know?

The signing of the first CCC enrollee occurred on April 7, 1933, only 37 days after President Roosevelt’s inauguration and eight days after Congressional approval of the program. The first CCC camp was established in the George Washington National Forest near Luray, Virginia, and occupied on April 17, 1933. It was named “Camp Roosevelt.”