Historical and Institutional Background
USDA Forest Service
A concern for forest management in the United States culminated in 1873, when Franklin Hough, a physician and director of the New York Census, gave an address before the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Hough's statistical research clearly suggested the need for preservation of woodland from an economic standpoint.  Endorsing Hough's findings, the AAAS encouraged Congress to determine the condition of the Nation's forests.
Three years after Hough's hallmark address, Congress directed the U.S. Department of Agriculture to create a position for a forestry agent to lead the assessment. Hough was selected and within a short time determined that the Nation's forests were in need of strict management policies.  In 1881, a division of forestry was created within the Department of Agriculture, and Franklin Hough served briefly as its director. 
Succeeding Hough and Nathaniel Egleston, Bernhard Fernow, a professional forester, promoted the notion of establishing a forest reserves system to help preserve the diminishing forests. Through the efforts of the Department of the Interior, in consultation with Fernow, the Forest Reserve Act was passed in 1891 as an amendment to an act revising the land laws.  Seventeen forest reserves were created in 3 years by President Harrison and placed under the Secretary of the Department of the Interior. Public domain would thus be retained, reversing the earlier commitment to private ownership. In 1897, a bill was passed providing for management of the reserves. Gifford Pinchot became head of the Division of Forestry in 1898, although the division did not yet have a forest to manage. Through Pinchot's efforts, major changes occurred. In 1901, the division was elevated to the more prestigious status of bureau. In 1905, forest reserves were transferred into the custody of the Department of Agriculture. In order to more effectively manage this new responsibility, the Bureau of Forestry became the Forest Service. Forest reserves were designated as national forests in 1907. 
In 1911, one of the most significant measures was established, the Weeks Law. Its most important components were a cooperative fire protection plan with participating States  and authorization for large sums of money to purchase forest lands to protect the watersheds of navigable streams. Although the concept seemed restricted, there was a broad interpretation of navigability. 
The Forest Reserve Act of 1891 had provided only for public domain lands, nearly all in the West, to be made forest reserves. The Weeks Law of 1911 authorized the Forest Service to seek land for purchase in the Eastern United States.  Thus two types of national forest emerged: land from public domain in the West and land purchased from private owners by the Federal Government to protect watersheds in the East.
As with the Weeks Law, the 1924 Clarke-McNary Act had many dimensions. Not only were cooperative programs authorized to expand, but restrictions were lifted concerning the Federal purchase of land only for watershed protection.  Lands for timber production could now be obtained through purchase or exchange. The Clarke-McNary law solidified cooperative relations between the Federal Government and the States and afforded opportunity for progress in forestry, particularly fire protection and tree planting.
During the late 1920's, unemployment became a serious problem. Forestry was thought to be one solution to the growing unemployment problem, especially through reforestation projects.  In part, this philosophy was the initial framework of the New Deal to emerge under Roosevelt's administration. A few States had already taken the initiative in using available human resources to help overcome forest problems.
Some States had taken measures to develop labor camps during times of high unemployment. Individuals on relief rolls were used for a variety of public works, forestry being a common project. Franklin D. Roosevelt had developed such a plan as Governor of New York. Another program existed in California. 
Because of eroding economic conditions in the late 1920's, California became burdened with a massive immigration of the unemployed. In 1931, between the first of September and last of October, some 70,000 unemployed persons came to California in search of work. Approximately 80 percent of these individuals were between 18 and 25 years of age. 
After a series of unsuccessful attempts by various individuals to ease California's surplus labor problem, an extraordinarily damaging fire season and the rapid influx of migrants prompted the State to adopt a labor corps system in November 1931.  Management responsibilities were designated to the USDA Forest Service in cooperation with several State and local agencies. In exchange for food, clothing, and shelter, enrollees were expected to work in the forests and watersheds for 6 hours per day. Fire control was the principal duty. 
Protective improvements included the felling of snags, roadside clearing, insect and disease control, and the construction of firebreaks. By December 1931, some 1,500 men were employed in 25 camps throughout California.  For the most part, labor camps were located on sites previously occupied by construction or logging work forces.
Recruitment was from welfare lines in the large urban areas, and participation was voluntary. Work forces were supervised by existing State and Federal personnel. Equipment was acquired from the California State Department of Forestry and from the USDA Forest Service. Other items, such as clothing, were purchased with State funds or received as donations.  Although these State programs never reached the level of sophistication of the CCC, their accomplishments were remarkable.
There has been some discussion whether these State programs and European counterparts were used as blueprints by Roosevelt to formulate his plan for the CCC.  Rather, it can be suggested that Roosevelt probably reorganized a series of concepts into a practical working plan for the entire Nation.
Franklin D. Roosevelt's political career began as a New York State senator in 1910. Although he had always been interested in environmental concerns, his election platform was based on entirely different matters.  His first senatorial appointment was chairman of the State's forests, fish, and game committee, which was formed because of a growing concern about natural resources.
Roosevelt's duties as chairman of the committee were manifold, primarily relating to issues in fish and wildlife conservation. His position afforded an opportunity to voice his concerns, ranging from forestry to ornithology. Moreover, through information supplied by Gifford Pinchot, Roosevelt became aware of many forest abuse problems generated by private and public forestry in the Adirondack Preserve. 
Although private forest owners objected, the Roosevelt-Jones Bill was signed into law in 1912. The bill, in part, was intended to preserve the Adirondacks and other forests in the State. It gave power to the State to regulate the harvest of timber and the water supply on lands in private ownership. 
When he became Governor of New York in 1929, Roosevelt remained concerned about a variety of environmental issues. Later, in 1931, he proclaimed a Conservation Week to promote greater public awareness. An accompanying press release best summarized his objectives:
Roosevelt was also concerned about growing unemployment in New York and the Nation. He approached the New York problem in two ways. First, he partially alleviated the short-term unemployment through public works; the long-range aspects were sent to a special committee of business and labor representatives to devise means to abate future problems. 
One key recommendation from this Committee on Stabilization of Industry for the Prevention of Unemployment was the expansion of public work projects during economically depressed times. Thus Roosevelt urged local, county, and State agencies to create more employment through these methods.
During the latter part of 1929, the State Department of Public Works created a record number of projects using the unemployed. Efforts, however, were focused near urban areas. Projects included highways, hospitals, and other urban area construction. By 1931, nearly 20,000 people were at work.  Roosevelt had hoped that the private sector would make contributions to unemployment relief, but the response did not meet his expectations. 
Even through emergency legislation, Roosevelt realized that the State could not keep pace with the growing unemployment figures. Furthermore, he determined that local, county, and State agencies could not manage the problem alone. Indeed, a regional or national approach was necessary. He was strongly convinced that the Federal Government must care for the people.
On July 2, 1932, Roosevelt accepted the Democratic nomination for the Presidency of the United States. His acceptance address in part mirrored his concern for unemployment and for the environment. He noted public works were a means of alleviating conservation problems by using the unemployed for reforestation and related work. He referred to this scheme by suggesting the use "of common sense and business sense..." 
Indeed, when Roosevelt took office in 1933, the Nation was faced with serious economic crises. The President cogently suggested a national restoration plan to put the unemployed to work and to stimulate and reorganize the use of natural resources.  Many of his corrective programs under the New Deal used the unemployed to help preserve the environment.
The mood of the country offered little if any resistance to Roosevelt's corrective programs. In record time he was able to pass legislation regarding a host of New Deal programs. Congress was supportive. Some historians have suggested the New Deal was divided into two components: the First New Deal and the Second New Deal.  The first aimed at recovery and the second at reform.
Roosevelt seemed to approach the Nation's problems holistically. He recognized the need for balance. Agriculture, industry, and banking were in need of a boost. Many programs were insurance policies to prevent financial disasters from recurring. The Agricultural Act, Farm Credit Act, National Recovery Act, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Act were a few of the intended corrective measures. Others included the Public Work Administration and the Works Progress Administration. One of the best known was the Emergency Conservation Work (ECW) Act or what was popularly called the Civilian Conservation Corps. More than any other New Deal agency, the CCC is considered to be an extension of Roosevelt's personal philosophy. 
On March 21, 1933, Roosevelt presented a message to Congress on the topic of unemployment relief. The chief components of his address were (1) a prompt plan to enroll unemployed persons for public employment not to interfere with normal employment demands; (2) grants to States for relief; and (3) a broad public work program creating a need for labor. 
Moreover, he requested that Congress establish a Federal Relief Administration to monitor requests for grants and their efficient use. Regarding his first request, Roosevelt said:
Congress acted in a rapid fashion and passed the law on March 31, 1933. On April 5, 1933, Executive Order 6106, Relief of Unemployment through the Performance of Useful Public Works, was signed by Roosevelt. The order carried several chief components. In part, it established Emergency Conservation Work, with Robert Fechner as director; mandated the Secretaries of Agriculture, War, Labor, and Interior to appoint representatives for an advisory counsel to ECW; and appropriated $10 million for a treasury fund. 
Formally designated as Emergency Conservation Work, the agency was immediately referred to as the Civilian Conservation Corps. The Departments of War, Agriculture, Interior, and Labor had chief responsibilities for its activities. The selection of individuals for enrollment was the responsibility of the Department of Labor. The War Department's responsibilities included physical conditioning, transportation, camp construction and administration, and supplies.
The Department of Agriculture was responsible for planning and conducting work projects on national forests in the continental United States as well as Alaska and Puerto Rico. State and private lands became part of their responsibilities. The Department of the Interior had similar responsibilities on lands under its jurisdiction, including all State, county, and local park lands.  At first, American Indians were not eligible for enrollment. When they became eligible, they were placed under the Department of the Interior, Office of Indian Affairs. 
All recruitment was conducted at the State level through an agency and quota designated by the Department of Labor. Each State established a local quota of enrollees and appointed another agency in the local community to conduct application procedures.  The initial national enrollment consisted of 25,000 men.  These figures were prorated as indicated in table 1.
Table 1CCC Quotas for Army Corps Areas, 1933
Eligibility requirements carried several stipulations. Congress required citizenship; other standards were set by the ECW. Generally, sound physical fitness was required because hard physical labor was done by enrollees. Men had to be unemployed, not married, and between the ages of 18 and 25.  By policy, those initially selected had to demonstrate their need. Policy also dictated that discrimination by color, race, creed, or politics would not be allowed. 
Enlistment was for 6 months. In return, each person received food, clothing, shelter, and an allowance of $30 per month. The ECW required enrollees to send an allotment of at least $25 a month to a dependent. 
On September 19, 1933, the Department of Labor announced that reenrolment was possible. Although reenrolment quotas had not been established, all those currently in the program were given first entitlement. 
Although policy forbade discrimination, blacks and other ethnic minorities encountered difficulties in the ECW. In 1933, black camps were segregated from white camps, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) objected.  Although the administration denied the policy of segregation, there were strong indications that integration was not enforced.
Robert L. Collins, adjunct general, War Department, issued a memorandum to all corpsmen on September 10, 1934. This memo read, in part:
In July 1935, the policy was reiterated and modestly amended. The new policy called for complete segregation of blacks and whites, except in States where there were not enough blacks to form an entire camp.  Nevertheless, many communities protested against black camps. Both Northern and Southern States had filed complaints as early as June 1933, only a few months after the CCC had been formed. 
In 1934, several blacks were made educational advisors in CCC camps. By 1936, one had been appointed a camp commander. It was clear, however, that blacks were discriminated against in the designation of leadership positions.  One writer has suggested the primary reason for tight control over blacks was adherence to War Department policy and practice. 
A report issued by the Chief of Staff, War Department, on May 13, 1935, summarized the "official policy regarding colored personnel." The Department claimed it had always been zealous in seeing that blacks were treated with "consideration, fairness, and justice" yet obviously felt that nonwhites needed special handling in the command administration.  Furthermore, because of complaints from local communities and even State Governors, many blacks were placed on military reservations. The War Department stated that "only the best and most carefully selected white officers are assigned to the command of these colored units."  Using black officers to command these units was still in the "experimental stages."
The War Department policy was clearly one of reluctance. Nevertheless, Fechner's office issued statements claiming at least "2,000 colored leaders and assistant leaders (and) twenty-four additional colored Education Advisors."  The policy of the War Department seemed to be no colored officers in command, unless there was pressure from Congress or President Roosevelt.
Another widespread minority group consisted of Mexican-American enrollees. No definite policy existed regarding Mexican-Americans as it did with blacks; however, discrimination was reported in Arizona, Texas, and New Mexico camps.  This appeared to be a regional phenomenon; when Mexican-Americans were sent to other States, such as Utah, racial problems were encountered less frequently. 
Some attempts were made to establish women's CCC camps. In 1938, the Women's Civic Club of Birmingham, AL, passed resolutions to bring a proposal before the next session of the Alabama legislature. Their proposal suggested the use of State and Federal funding to establish women's camps, augmented by private endowments.  It failed, however.
On April 5, 1933, 25,000 men from 16 cities had been enrolled in the CCC.  The initial selection had been conducted in eastern and midwestern urban areas where "facilities" already existed.  Enrollments from the West were to be released soon. Within 8 days, sites for the first 50 camps on eastern and southern national forests had been approved. Each camp would consist of 200 men, for a total of 10,000. 
Although the USDA Forest Service always had the majority of CCC camps,  the U.S. Army was assigned responsibility "for all matters incident to command of units."  This included construction of forestry camps, supply, administration, sanitation, medical care, hospitalization, and welfare.  The Forest Service or other appropriate agency was responsible for actual work projects, technical planning and execution, and supervision of work forces.  Some people thought the Army was taking on a larger role than had been originally intended and that this expansion of responsibility created problems between the Army and other Federal agencies. Many difficulties between agencies seemed to be the result of misunderstanding of roles and responsibilities. 
The organization of CCC companies reflected the role of the U.S. Army. A chain of command was clear. Figure 2 shows this organization.  Army corps areas are shown in Figure 3. Because the Army was in charge of camp construction, designs for permanent, semipermanent, and portable camps were very specific. Directions on types of materials, dimensions, and step-by-step construction from ground clearing to the finished work were given. By 1934, the plans were notably precise. A typical camp layout is shown in Figure 4. The Army had also calculated the costs of building, disassembling, and reerecting camps. 
Although canvas tents were originally intended for all CCC camps, the Army and an industry group known as the American Forest Products, Inc., began demonstrating the cost feasibility of lumber products. Fechner was concerned about the unofficial policy change and quickly apprised Roosevelt of the situation.  The dilemma was resolved, and in November 1933 the CCC boasted that more than 40,000 carpenters utilizing 300 million board feet of lumber would be building CCC camps in 46 states  (fig. 5). The potential benefit to the lumber industry was obvious; however, related manufacturing and construction businesses would share in the profits as well.
In 1934, the portable camp buildings were introduced into the CCC. The fourth corps area was the recipient of the first camp of this design near Tupelo, MS.  Portable buildings were shown to be cost-effective, and by 1935 they became a standard feature.
Side camps, popularly known as spike or fly camps, were especially useful in the Western United States because of rough topography and lack of roads. Projects conducted by side camps included construction of lookouts on peaks accessible only by trail and firebreaks on ridgelines, disease and insect treatment, and some forest fire prevention. On July 21, 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt approved the use of side camps under the following conditions: (1) limited to 20 persons; (2) absent from the main camp only from Monday through Friday; (3) under the control of forestry personnel, not military; and (4) treated as experimental for a period of time. 
All side camps required approval by the regional forester, with the exception of emergency situations involving fire. It was soon realized that side camps were both efficient and effective. Regional foresters reported equal or better production from side camps, especially in building trails and roads, putting in communication lines, and work of a similar nature. 
All camps were designated by letters and numbers indicating their classification regarding either land ownership or type of work. Numbers were assigned under each of these classes by States. Table 2 indicates these classifications and designations. 
Table 2Camp designations
Each CCC company was also assigned numbers by State and order of formation. For example, Company 940 indicated the ninth corps area and the fortieth camp formed. Less formally, camps also received names. Most seemed to take on the name of a geographic place or some special personage. 
Enrollees could be sent to camps in various parts of the country, according to the need for work. In theory, the chosen camp would be fairly near the enrollee's home:
Nevertheless, many individuals assigned to camps in the West were from the Midwest or East. Homesickness was reported to be a problem, especially with enrollees from New York, Chicago, and other large urban areas. 
The objectives of the CCC have already been discussed. Within the national forests, first, and probably foremost, was forest protection. Fighting forest fires was the primary duty, but disease and insect control were also included. The building of telephone lines, lookouts, landing fields, trails, roads, and bridges constituted in part a preventive measure within the forest protection category. 
Forest improvement was another important category of CCC activities. Included were timber stand improvement and inventories, surveys, and forest cover maps. Reforestation, too, was an important aspect, as were nurseries to produce seedlings. 
Still another major area of work was forest recreation development. Campgrounds were built, equipped with water supplies, swimming pools, fireplaces, picnic shelters, and rest rooms. 
The CCC was used by the USDA Forest Service for range and wildlife projects. Improvements were made for range cover and revegetation. The CCC also participated in wildlife development through the construction of refuges and stream clearing for fish propagation. Soil erosion control, flood control, and forest research were other CCC duties. 
The CCC was also well known for its work in crisis situations, including floods, forest fires, storms, and forest disease and insect infestation. Table 3 provides examples of such activities throughout the country.
Table 3The CCC in national and local emergencies*
Of course, the CCC did not exist without negative reaction from various levels. Criticism ranged from community fears of "foreigners" being imported near local towns to a charge by the mayor of Pittsburgh, PA, that the CCC caused disastrous floods by removing undergrowth vegetation that had retarded water flow. 
Clearly, however, the efforts of the CCC received more praise than criticism from the public. This was partly because the CCC developed a great propaganda mechanism to continually flood the public media with reports of its merits. The USDA Forest Service could capitalize on positive publicity because of its national jurisdiction and wide distribution. In November 1934, Guy McKinney, director of publicity for the ECW, wrote to Acting Chief Forester G.M. Graner to encourage publicity, at least at the local level.  In 1935, the effusive McKinney wrote to Fred Morrell, acting chief of CCC forestry work in the Forest Service, praising the Service for the sound publicity regarding the CCC.  The publicity campaign accelerated in 1936, the same year the ECW was extended and renamed the Civilian Conservation Corps.  Both McKinney and Fechner prepared a media blitz with stories about the CCC and its accomplishments.  American Forests magazine served as yet another vehicle for CCC praise. In 1934, the magazine sponsored a contest entitled "What the CCC Has Done for Me." Current enrollees were encouraged to submit short essays praising the value of the agency. Selected manuscripts were published and the authors awarded prizes. 
The overall value of the CCC cannot be questioned. There were problems with desertion, dissidents, and general dissatisfaction because of inflated expectations; nevertheless, many young men acquired skills and educational benefits they might not have acquired otherwise.
In June 1933, the ECW decided men in CCC camps could be given the opportunity for vocational training and further education. Initially, the USDA Forest Service conducted seminars and workshops in forestry.  Later, a plan encouraging ties with universities and the extension service was developed by W. Frank Persons and introduced to the ECW.  Both Fechner and the Army were opposed to this plan.  Eventually, because Fechner acknowledged the need, a plan was formulated. Camp education advisors and assistants were appointed.  Although the program faced many problems, a vocational and academic curriculum was developed.
Again, the CCC could publicize another activity. By 1937, there were 1,100 CCC school buildings with libraries exceeding 1,500,000 volumes. The program boasted instruction "at all levels, including basic literacy, elementary, high school and college courses, voca tional training," and others.  More than 90 percent of all enrollees were participants in some facet of the educational program.
Although Roosevelt attempted to make the CCC a permanent agency in 1937, this was not realized.  On June 30, 1942, all active operations ceased. The Labor-Federal Security Administration Appropriation Act (Public Law 647) spelled the demise of the organization. Some $8 million was set aside to cover all costs of liquidation, and the War Department, Labor Department, and Civil Aeronautics Administration were given first opportunity of acquiring CCC properties.  The War Department claimed the majority of equipment.
Public Law 647 specified that the CCC must totally liquidate before July 1, 1943. All work programs were stopped, and more than 60,000 enrollees were discharged. Some 1,300 camps had already closed, and a remaining 350 were being phased out.  By June 1942, many CCC enrollees had been reassigned to military capacities.  Earlier, many officers had already been reassigned as the potential for war in Europe was realized. 
Though it received many renewals, the CCC did come to an end. Indeed, it had been fraught with political difficulties and in some cases became too large and over extended.  For a precise description of the CCC and its demise, John A. Salmond's work, The Civilian Conservation Corps, 1933-42: A New Deal Case Study, should be consulted.
The CCC legacy is still alive, however. Recently, Senators Daniel Moynihan and Charles Mathias introduced a bill for a contemporary version of the CCC, called the American Conservation Corps. Unemployed men and women from 18 to 25 would be eligible. As Moynihan suggested, "The idea is not new, but it works and it is cost effective." 
3. William Robbins, A history of U.S. Forest Service cooperative programs. Unpublished manuscript contracted by the History Section, USDA Forest Service, Washington, DC. Located at: Pacific Crest Research and Services Corporation, Corvallis, OR.
29. "Relief of unemployment through the performance of public works," 73rd Congress, 1st session, House of Representatives document 116. April 1933. Located at: National Archives and Record Service, Washington, DC; Record Group 35, vol. 1, item 2.
30. See reference note 29. The ECW was authorized for only a 2-year period. Subsequent legislation extended the life of the agency. In 1936, the name was officially changed to the Civilian Conservation Corps.
31. Executive Order 6106. Located at: National Archives and Record Service, Washington, DC; Record Group 35, vol. 1, item 22. See appendix A for major Executive Orders and other legislation affecting the ECW and subsequently the CCC.
34. Emergency Conservation Work bulletin 3, handbook for agencies selecting men for emergency conservation work (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office). Located at: National Archives and Record Service, Washington, DC; Record Group 35, vol. 1, item 62.
38. Ibid. Also: "A chance to work in the forest," U.S. Department of Labor bulletin 1, ECW. (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office; 1933). Located at: National Archives and Record Service, Washington, DC; Record Group 35, entry 6, vol. 1, item 38.
66. Plans, camp programs, and information on side camps, 1933-37, as well as memorandum from E.W. Kelley, Regional Forester, Region I. Located at: National Archives and Record Service, Washington, DC; Record Group 95, entry 144, box 221.
79. Letter from McKinney to Morrell, (February 4, 1936) and letter from Morrell to regional forester (January 10, 1936). Located at: National Archives and Record Service, Washington, DC; Record Group 95.
81. "Training in forestry." Located at: National Archives and Record Service, Washington, DC; Record Group 95-144, acc. 1265, box 81. R.Y. Steward. Letter to all regional and State foresters (June 13, 1933). Located at: National Archives and Record Service, Washington, DC; Record Group 95-144, acc. 1265, box 81.
86. Legislative action making the CCC a permanent agency. HR 6551, report no. 687, 75th Congress, 1st session. Located at: National Archives and Record Service, Washington, DC; Record Group 95-144, box 21.
Last Updated: 07-Jan-2008