historic image of men sitting down to eat lunch in field among burned trees

THE CIVILIAN CONSERVATION CORPS (CCC) was a depression-era work-relief program that put millions of America’s young men to work on important conservation projects. Established in 1933 by executive order, the CCC was one of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s most popular New Deal programs. Said Roosevelt in his initial request to Congress:

“…I have proposed to create a civilian conservation corps to be used in simple work, not interfering with the normal employment, and confining itself to forestry, the prevention of soil erosion, flood control, and similar projects….The type of work is of definite, practical value, not only through the prevention of great financial loss but also as a means of creating future national wealth…”

historic image of men working in forest

In exchange for enlisting in the Corps, an unmarried and unemployed young man could expect room and board in a CCC camp, a 40-hour manual labor workweek and a monthly salary of around 30 dollars—25 of which was required to be sent home to his family.

Guided by the National Park Service, the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture, and the U.S Forest Service, CCC members were responsible for the revitalization of many of the Nation’s forests. Also known as Roosevelt’s Tree Army, CCC workers planted over 3 billion trees and fought hundreds of forest fires. The majority of the firefighting work was done by hand, with tools such as a brush hook, an implement resembling a small ax, used to clear heavy undergrowth and create critical firebreaks. Smaller and more mobile CCC outposts, called Fly Camps, constructed fire lookouts on peaks accessible only by trail.

Prior to its closure by Congress in 1942 due to WWII, the CCC also maintained grazing lands, implemented erosion and flood control measures and built many of the national park campground facilities that we enjoy today.

Trees planted from 1933 – 1942

Young men employed during the Great Depression

Smokey Bear - 75 years of vigilance

Filson Smokey Bear tops Shop Smokey