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The CCC and the NPS
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     Brief History

    National Park Service Role

    NPS Camps


    Overall Accomplishments



The Civilian Conservation Corps and
the National Park Service, 1933-1942:

An Administrative History
Chapter One:
A Brief History of the Civilian Conservation Corps
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The challenge of beginning an effective ECW program/organization was met in 1933. The next year saw the growth and expansion of the ECW, along with relaxed restrictions on employing LEMs and the types of jobs that could be accomplished using ECW labor. [33] Park superintendents and project supervisors were allowed more freedom in hiring local men. The projects that ECW workers were permitted to undertake were expanded, and job specifications such as the acceptable width of roads and trails were liberalized. Also in 1934, the Park Service began a program of hiring college students in specialized fields to serve as technical advisors (see chapter 2 for more details). Sixty-one camps in NPS areas and 239 state camps existed in 32 states by the end of March 1934. By October the expansion of the ECW program gave the Park Service a total of 102 camps in national parks and monument areas and 263 camps administered under the state parks program. [34]

In mid-December 1933, the ECW program was extended to the territory of Hawaii, and in January 1934, the Park Service enrolled men for Hawaii National Park. The superintendent of Hawaii National Park and the governor of Hawaii administered this ECW program. The NPS superintendent had a civilian camp director under his authority who operated the camps. Under the camp director was the project superintendent, who took care of the men out in the field. The enrollees worked both from camps (in Hawaii National Park) and from their homes. In December of that year the program was expanded to the Virgin Islands and was administered by the Park Service in a manner similar to the Hawaiian program. At that time the Park Service also was responsible for supervision of some ECW projects of the Tennessee Valley Authority and six drought relief camps for the Bureau of Reclamation. [35]

In the first two years of the ECW, it was forbidden to work outside park boundaries. To successfully conduct campaigns to provide insect control, reduce fire hazards, construct trails, provide disease control, and other forest protection measures, however, it proved necessary to expand the work beyond park or monument boundaries onto U.S. Forest Service land, private land, or the public domain. When this occurred, the individual case was evaluated and permission granted by the Office of the Director of the Emergency Conservation Work. In early 1935 the custodian of Devils Tower National Monument requested permission to conduct forest protection work beyond the monument's boundaries, and routine approval was granted by Fechner's office. The incident, however, prompted Director Cammerer to seek a broad agreement by which the Park Service itself could determine if the conservation work justified going beyond park boundaries. Director Fechner approved this request on May 20, 1935. [36]

Prior to the end of the congressional authorization for the ECW in 1935, President Roosevelt notified Director Fechner that he would ask Congress to extend the program, as he believed it had proved beneficial to both the nation and American youth. Congressional passage of the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act of 1935 on April 8, 1935, extended the ECW until March 31, 1937. President Roosevelt then issued a directive on April 10 for the ECW enrollment to become 600,000 workers, doubling its size. To accomplish this expansion, the maximum age limit was raised to 28 and the minimum lowered to 17. More than 300,000 youths needed to be recruited. The Park Service was given permission to employ 120,000 and later 150,000 men on projects. This expanded ECW camps inside and outside national park and monument areas and resulted in hiring additional personnel to assist in the administrative work. The pre-ECW NPS staff consisted of 6,192 people. To help administer the ECW program another 7,422 people exclusive of enrollees were hired by the end of June 1935. [37]

Even as the enrollment in the ECW was being doubled, President Roosevelt began to think in terms of reducing the size of the corps and making it a permanent organization. On September 25, 1935, he instructed Fechner to begin reducing the ECW to 300,000 men by June 1, 1938. To implement this instruction, the Park Service had to drop 68 camps from the winter operation schedule and 61 camps for the summer period of 1936. Conrad L. Wirth, head of the NPS state parks program, believed that the camp cuts would result in a similar reduction in the inspection staff, and he directed the ECW administrative officers to evaluate their camp inspectors to determine who should be retained. The enrollment cuts were to be accomplished by attrition. As the camp reduction became known to the public, the president, faced with mounting public opposition, slightly modified his position and allowed the ECW to continue enrollment at 350,000; however, he continued working toward further camp reductions. [38]

At the same time the first efforts were made to make the ECW a permanent government agency. To bolster arguments in support of such an agency, Wirth instructed regional, state, and park officials to be ready to show congressmen the work already accomplished by the ECW and to explain the work remaining to be done. Herbert Evison, Wirth's assistant, asked that photographs of work accomplished be sent to the Washington Office in case they were needed during the congressional hearing on the ECW. [39]

The continuing reduction in ECW enrollee quotas led to further camp closures. In April of 1936 the Park Service was notified by Director Fechner that its quota had been reduced from 446 to 340 camps. To implement this reduction, park areas in which several camps existed were forced to lose a camp. Then in May the Park Service was directed to reduce the total number of state and NPS camps by 20. (Chief Historian Verne E. Chatelain complained that the cuts fell most heavily on the NPS camps and less severely on the state parks program.) Not only was the number of camps reduced, but the number of enrollees for each camp averaged 160 men compared to the earlier 200-man camps. Also the student technical advisors were limited to one per camp, but their pay was increased to between $75 and $85 a month and they were granted civil service protection. [40]

The 1936 personnel reduction was an economy measure by the president, but it was also another attempt to create a smaller agency which could be made permanent. In his annual budget message to Congress on January 5, 1937, President Roosevelt lauded the accomplishments of the ECW and asked Congress to pass legislation to establish the corps as a permanent federal agency. The president envisioned the smaller agency to consist of 300,000 young men and war veterans along with 10,000 Indians and 7,000 enrollees from U.S. territories. Congressional action on the matter was required, as authority for the ECW program ended on June 30, 1937. The prospect of a smaller agency required the Park Service to rethink how best to utilize the enrollees. Previously, it had used technical ECW personnel in positions that would otherwise have been part of the regular departmental payroll. To correct this situation, NPS officials began working toward converting the temporary ECW positions to permanent positions meeting civil service requirements. [41]

On March 21, 1937, President Roosevelt sent a message to Congress that further defined the role of a permanent ECW-type agency, indicating that its enrollees would be used for forestry work, soil conservation tasks, flood control, and other simple work tasks. In another message to Congress on April 5 the president defined the structure of the permanent agency. The Civilian Conservation Corps, as it was to be called, was to be an independent agency, with all ECW records and property transferred to it. New employees would come under civil service provisions, and the present employees would be given the Civil Service Commission noncompetitive examination within 12 months of the bill's passage. The president recommended that the age of the enrollees be changed to include those between 17 and 23 years old who could prove they were impoverished. [42]

On June 28, 1937, Congress passed new legislation that formally established the Civilian Conservation Corps (thus officially no longer the ECW). The bill, however, differed from the administration's proposal in a number of ways: the CCC was not made a permanent agency--it was only extended for three more years; the employees were not placed under civil service authority; no action was taken on the presidential age requirement proposal; and a provision was inserted in the bill that set aside 10 hours a week for general education or vocational training for the enrollees. Despite these differences, the president signed the bill into law. [43]

President Roosevelt designated ECW Director Robert Fechner as the director of the newly established CCC. Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes designated the National Park Service and Conrad Wirth to represent the Department of the Interior in meetings of the CCC advisory council. Also Secretary Ickes announced that the National Park Service would undertake a nationwide recreation study in cooperation with the state and municipal authorities to determine regional recreational needs and inventory existing and potential park and recreation areas. This study was an outgrowth of the CCC state parks program. [44]

Throughout 1937 the Park Service faced the challenge of reducing CCC camps. As camps were terminated, the Washington Office received complaints from park superintendents that necessary work was being indefinitely deferred. (For example, officials at Great Smoky Mountains National Park expressed concern that the CCC camp reductions had cost the park vital forest fire protection. Chattanooga, Tennessee, town officials expressed concern that the closing of a camp at Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park would hinder park development.) Washington officials tried to calm these fears by pointing out that once the CCC became a permanent government agency, the need for further cuts would be alleviated and the parks' delayed projects would be addressed. [45]

The reduction of CCC camps continued into 1938 as the funding for the program was further cut by Congress. A few Democratic congressmen, led by Oklahoma Representative Jed Johnson, attempted to restore the full appropriation but were outvoted in the House of Representatives. The camp reduction program was halted at 1,500 camps on a nationwide basis when Representative Clifton A. Woodrum of Virginia successfully introduced a measure to restore $50 million dollars to the work relief programs to prevent closing another 300 camps. This measure passed both the House and Senate and helped to stabilize the CCC program. The NPS allotment was 77 camps for national park and monument areas and 245 camps for the state parks program. [46]

In 1939 another attempt was made in Congress to establish the CCC as a permanent agency of the federal government. Again it failed. In addition, the CCC lost its status as an independent agency when President Roosevelt moved to consolidate all the federal relief programs into the Federal Security Agency, the Federal Works Agency, or the Federal Loans Agency. The Reorganization Act of 1939, which brought the CCC under the Federal Security Agency on July 1, emphasized the role of the CCC in promoting the welfare and education of its enrollees. [47]

Large-scale camp reductions did not take place in 1939; however, the CCC program continued to have some camps phased out and relocated to other areas. Over the years park superintendents, park staff, and camp personnel had given support to local groups wishing to prevent these camp relocations. Director Cammerer came out with a strong memorandum against this practice, which commented:

Embarrassment has been caused the Service and the Department because of conflicting reports from field officers about changes in location of CCC camps at end of enrollment periods. Such changes are made because of winter weather conditions, because work programs have been finished, and in consideration of CCC construction projects throughout the country.

There is frequently much local opposition to the removal of CCC camps, and for this reason superintendents of national parks or officers in charge of other areas in which the camps are located must be extremely careful to avoid statements which may be interpreted as opposition to the program of transfers of CCC Camps which has been determined upon by the Department in agreement with the Director of the CCC.

It is the responsibility of the Regional Director to recommend locations for camps, to determine when a camp has completed its program, and to recommend the locations where new camps are desirable. But a decision having been reached, superintendents and others must loyally abide by it. [48]

At the close of fiscal year 1939 the president ordered Park Service to reduce the number of supervisory personnel involved in CCC work. Fears had been expressed by park superintendents in their 1938 conference that any further reduction in the number of CCC supervisors and funding for materials would lead to a situation where the CCC would be more of a relief agency than a working agency. Still, the Park Service had to find some means of reducing supervisory personnel without drastically affecting the work projects. After visiting the regional offices and discussing the matter with CCC Director Fechner, Conrad Wirth decided to create central service units within NPS regional offices to handle design and technical matters and to abolish these positions within individual camps. Such a solution had proven economically successful for the state parks program, and in early 1940 this plan was implemented. Fechner also wanted the Park Service to eliminate the use of CCC enrollees as park guides and fee collectors and in performing other operational tasks by July 1940. An NPS task force on this program agreed with Fechner and recommended to the NPS director that these jobs be made regular NPS positions. The task force concluded that this conversion probably could not be accomplished until 1943. [49]

Despite the cutbacks in personnel, the NPS design staff prepared plans for projects that the CCC camps would not be able to complete due to a lack of available funding. These projects were then held in abeyance until sufficient funds became available for implementation. Some of the plans remained unfunded until after World War II. [50]

On December 31, 1939, CCC Director Robert Fechner died in Walter Reed Hospital from complications following a heart attack. His successor was James L. McEntee, the executive assistant director of the CCC. McEntee faced myriad challenges--desertions, low morale in the camps, budgetary and personnel reductions, the poor quality of the recruits who were joining the CCC, and the CCC's own indefinite future as an organization. Desertions among CCC enrollees were increasing as the ablest young men obtained employment outside the CCC and families became less dependent on the $25 monthly allotment checks. The problem of recruiting capable personnel plagued the CCC for the rest of its existence. [51]

President Roosevelt in his budget message for fiscal year 1941 asked Congress to reduce the CCC to 230,000 enrollees in 1,227 camps. The Congress in response to protests added $50 million to the administration's CCC budget to prevent any reduction in camps or personnel. The number of CCC camps within national park areas increased slightly and the number of state park camps decreased slightly. [52]

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