The National Parks and Emergency Conservation Work
NPS Logo


With the establishment of literally hundreds of emergency conservation camps, approved under the emergency conservation program of the President, a number of our young citizens have an opportunity to help in what is probably the biggest conservation movement in history. The members of the Civilian Conservation Corps, under trained leadership, are directing their efforts toward protecting and in some cases improving conditions in the national parks and monuments, the national military parks, the national forests; in State parks and forests; and in various county parks and metropolitan sections of municipal parks. The installation of camps in all these areas has proceeded only upon approval of the President, after consideration of proposed plans by the Director of Emergency Conservation Work and the Special Advisory Council.

Much of the work on the different classes of reservations is the same and is directed primarily toward conservation of forests. The approved types of forest protection now being undertaken include protection against fire and insect infestation, blister rust and tree disease, and roadside fixation and erosion control.

The work is divided into two broad classes, however—conservation for complete preservation in the national parks, monuments, military areas, State parks and allied reservations; and conservation for use in the National and State forests.

In addition to the emergency conservation activities in the national parks, national monuments, and other areas directly under its supervision, the National Park Service is charged with the administration of the emergency conservation work in State, county, and metropolitan parks, because the same principles of conservation for complete preservation govern all these classes of reservations. Similarly, the Civilian Conservation Corps assigned to work on the State forests are under the direction of the United States Forest Service, for upon wise conservation of tree stands in them, as in our national forests, rests the hope of a continuance of our national wood supply, one of our most important natural resources.

Mount Oberlin, Glacier National Park.

The conservation activities directed by the National Park Service take the form of landscape protection rather than solely forest protection. All work is planned and conducted with detailed attention to the landscape values. Forested areas in these reservations must be kept in their natural condition so far as possible. The removal of underbrush, dead trees, wind falls, and other natural debris from old forests is undertaken only to such an extent as is necessary to remove serious fire hazards. Ground cover is essential in the complete protection of bird life and small mammals, and also is part of the natural forest scene. Timber-cutting is undertaken only when it is designed to improve the quality of young growth on cut-over or burned-over lands.

To many of the young volunteers of the Civilian Conservation Corps the type of work undertaken has been an entirely new experience. The first few weeks at outdoor labor with the ax and shovel are not easy, as the many college men who work in lumber camps during the summer vacations know. Sore muscles rebel at the unaccustomed exercise, but dogged perseverance wins. After a couple of weeks muscles ripple smoothly as the ax is wielded, and there is a feeling of power, of physical fitness, that makes up for the toughening process. The boys are woodsmen now, and like it.

It is the hope of the National Park Service that many men engaged in emergency conservation work may find the activities so to their liking that when the emergency is over they will continue to devote themselves to conservation, perhaps finding that their life work lies in a national or State park.

Certainly future visitors to the parks and monuments will get an added degree of enjoyment of the natural beauties they behold as a result of the loyal efforts of the Civilian Conservation Corps. It may be that some of the magnificent tree stands will owe their continued existence to the present conservation activities against fire and various tree blights; that control of erosion along roadsides may mean the salvation of other objects of beauty. The youthful conservation workers, when mature men, doubtless will feel an increased interest in these great outdoor wonderlands for which they personally have done so much.


A particularly happy phase of Emergency Conservation Work from the standpoint of the National Park Service is the opportunity it has afforded for active cooperation with State park authorities in the development of State, county, and metropolitan parks and recreation areas.

Since its establishment the National Park Service has been keenly interested in promoting the development of State parks, to supplement the national park system with smaller, more numerous, and more quickly accessible recreation areas. Organization of the State Park Conference in 1921 was the result of this interest on the part of national park officials. It was not until 1933, however, with the inauguration of the Emergency Conservation Work, that the National Park Service was able to give more than moral support to State park principles.

Since that time Civilian Conservation Corps companies, ranging in number at various times from 105 companies in 26 States to 408 in 47 States, have worked on State projects throughout the country under the joint supervision of Service field men and the park and conservation authorities of States, counties, and cities.

Development of State recreation areas under these emergency conditions caught the public imagination, and requests for additional Civilian Conservation Corps camps on State areas literally poured into headquarters at Washington. But local interest took an even more concrete form, resulting as it has in an increase in the Nation's State and local park acreage in the past 3 years of 500,000 acres, bringing the total of such holdings to 3,500,000 acres. Of particular interest is the fact that seven States which previously had no State parks have during the past three years of Emergency Conservation Work acquired their first State park properties.

The function of the National Park Service in relation to State and local parks and recreation areas is generally supervisory. The Service cooperates with the officials in charge of the local parks in carrying out projects initiated locally. In general, the National Park Service supervision includes a check on all projects to make sure that they come within the scope of the Emergency Conservation Work program and that the funds allotted to them are legally and wisely expended.

Scene in Grand Teton National Park.

The development work undertaken in large natural tracts of State park areas includes the construction of simple, unobtrusive trails and occasional trailside shelters; the cutting of firebreaks; control of erosion, flood, plant diseases and insects; and the clean-up of underbrush fire hazards. In addition, in the service areas of such parks public campgrounds, parking lots, and picnic areas are located. Thus far this work is closely similar to that in the national parks. In addition, however, in these wilderness State parks, because of their comparative nearness to large communities and the demand for service differing from that available in the national parks, communities of cabins rentable for overnight or vacation stays, recreation lodges, concession buildings, and, where applicable, bathhouses are installed.

The county and metropolitan parks, being still closer to the large centers of population and more intensively used, are more highly developed than the typical State park areas referred to above.

Legislation now is pending in Congress which, if enacted, will authorize the National Park Service to extend its cooperation to the various States in the local park planning and development program beyond the period of the emergency. The authorization for permanent cooperation contained in the pending legislation would make it possible for the National Park Service to cooperate in the State park field in much the same way as the United States Forest Service cooperates in State forest protection and the Federal Bureau of Public Roads in the construction of Federal aid highways.

Little Bald Mountain, Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Nature Guide Party on Top of Eagle Peak, Yosemite National Park.

<<< Previous <<< Contents>>> Next >>>

Last Updated: 16-Feb-2010