Single Identity-Based Crews Research: Update from the Road No. 3


Members of Southwest Conservation Corps' Ancestral Lands program
 

As part of her studies at the University of Oregon, graduate student Jordan Katcher plans to create a toolkit that provides resources for increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion (D,E,I) within Conservation Corps programming. To do this, Jordan hopes to combine academic research with insights from the field.

During the summer-fall of 2017, Jordan is traveling throughout the country to visit several Corps that operate identity-based programs (e.g. Veterans Crews, ASL Inclusion Crews, Native Youth Crews, LGBTQ Crews, All-Female Crews, etc.). She'll be conducting interviews and gathering information about innovative and effective practices. The Corps Network is hosting a blog where Jordan will share her experiences from the road.

 


By Jordan Katcher

Hello all! My name is Jordan Katcher and I am a current Community & Regional Planning graduate student at the University of Oregon. For my master’s degree, I’m focusing my research on increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion (D,E,I) within the outdoors. This summer, I traveled across the country, and conducted site visits with conservation corps that have implemented/are implementing single identity-based initiatives for marginalized populations within the conservation world. To read more about my research project, check out my first blog post here, and my second blog post here.

For my third trip, I ventured through the Southwest region to conduct site visits with Conservation Legacy, Utah Conservation Corps, and Idaho Conservation Corps. Below is a brief snapshot from the visits:

 

VISITS IN THE SOUTHWEST
 

Conservation Legacy (CL) Site Visits – Durango, Colorado

As a previous program coordinator for Conservation Legacy, I was so excited to visit Durango and see so many familiar faces! Given Conservation Legacy’s large size, I was also eager to learn about their multiple single identity-based crews: Ancestral Lands, Veterans Fire Corps, and their brand-new Wyoming Women’s Fire Corps.

ANCESTRAL LANDS
Ancestral Lands began in 2008 with an emphasis on local relationship-building for Native American communities located primarily in the Southwest. For Conservation Legacy, the need for this program was born out of an equity initiative to meet the needs of tribal youth, while also providing them with the necessary technical and professional development skills to potentially launch careers in natural resource conservation. This goal, however, is met with a handful of barriers, one of which is: will natural resources career opportunities be located within these reservations, or would these opportunities require Corps alumni to leave their homes in hopes of employment? Understanding the end goal of these crew opportunities is crucial in providing skills and professional development experiences that are desired by the Corpsmembers themselves.

Ancestral Lands is very intentional about promoting cultural awareness for their members and staff. For example, members serving during the recent eclipse were given the day off for their traditional beliefs. The program would also like to expand into increased language immersion with their staff, but funding creates limitations for this. They’d also like to develop professional certificates for native restoration and “traditional ecological knowledge” (TEK) that recognize the importance of Indigenous knowledge within the environment. A large asset that has grown out of this program is the embeddedness of storytelling, especially across multiple tribes that historically may not have seen eye-to-eye. These barriers are being broken down through relationship-building, shared experiences, and crew work.
 

VETERAN’S FIRE CORPS
The Veteran’s Fire Corps initially ran just like other crews within Conservation Legacy. Over time, however, staff realized that the needs of their veteran crew members required a shift towards professional development and certifications. Additionally, in recognizing the challenges veterans face when reintegrating into civilian life, it seemed ideal that this transition could be accomplished within a safe space, serving on a fire crew. Conservation Legacy has also been intentional in raising the stipends for their veteran crew members, as they understand the limitations that come with such low incomes. The organization also takes great strides in their recruitment and screening processes, and asks necessary questions to ensure that potential members are both emotionally and physically ready for the program.
 

WYOMING WOMEN’S FIRE CORPS
After ongoing conversations about gender balances, especially regarding a need for increased diversity within the Bureau of Land Management, an opportunity arose to create an exclusive Wyoming Women’s Fire Corps. In the 10 years that the Veteran’s Fire Corps has been running, only about five of their members have been female veterans. The launch of this new crew is essential to providing a place for female veterans to connect with one another within the intersection of their female and veteran identities.

 


Utah Conservation Corps (UCC) Site Visits – Logan, Utah

In 2005, Utah Conservation Corps had a crew leader, Andy Zimmer, who, while riding his bike back from dinner in downtown Logan, UT, was hit by a car. The accident resulted in a C6 spinal fracture, thus paralyzing him from his shoulders down. After Andy underwent physical therapy, he came back to UCC with the intention of completing his assignment. This tragic accident was the impetus for UCC’s Disability Inclusion Crew, where UCC had to ask themselves: What would this experience look like for a member serving in a wheelchair? What unmet needs can they serve through this experience? And how can they bring the traditional conservation corps experience to a member with a physical disability?

At the time, UCC was a fairly small program, yet they had a combination of experience and passion to help get the program off the ground. Assistant Director Kate Stephens had served as an AmeriCorps VISTA with Options for Independence (and helped start Common Ground Outdoor Adventures, which does adaptive outdoor work for members). Additionally, Program Director Sean Damitz had the personal experience of growing up with a father who had MS. The two of them shared inherent values that pushed them to really examine their organization and ask themselves how to move beyond the typical “burly, white male” crew member, and make UCC a more welcoming and inclusive space for a diverse population of corps members.

To UCC, a successful inclusion crew starts with having really meaningful projects that involve a dedicated, passionate sponsor that sets goals and takes ownership of the project (which leaves program expansion up to the sponsor base). The inclusion crew integrates both members with disabilities and members that are able-bodied, which utilizes the strengths of all crew members. Members with disabilities are trained through the Forest Service with iPads to assess campsites and trails and input USFS database information, and the members that are able-bodied undergo chainsaw training for trail development. What’s so fascinating about this crew is that not only are the members with disabilities creating access within these sites for themselves, but they’re also transforming trails, campsites, restrooms, and more to provide access for tourists with disabilities to experience these areas as well.

In the beginning, the crew members were about 50/50, but lately, it has been imbalanced given the difficulty of recruiting individuals who may have physical disabilities. Recruiting locally has really been the best solution, since members with disabilities have ADA-compliant living quarters and are familiar with the area. Asking someone to move to a different state, secure ADA-compliant temporary housing, and ensure that their medical needs are met (especially for a 300 to 500-hour service positon on an AmeriCorps living allowance) is truly a large struggle.

UCC said that they’ve heard of other corps thinking about starting Disability Inclusion Crews, but they also understand that it’s a steep learning curve that requires a great amount of resources, time, and consideration. For these crew members, though, these crew experiences have made a considerable difference in their lives, which makes it all worth it in the end.

 


Idaho Conservation Corps (ICC) Site Visits – Boise, Idaho

The idea for the brand new ICC Women’s Crew came from an assistant crew leader-turned program coordinator- who realized the change in dynamics when more females were involved in crew positions. With approval from Northwest Youth Corps, the Women’s Crew was designed with the intention of creating spaces where everyone can have an equal share in their own growth and development.

It was noticed that on co-ed crews, things that were more technical (lifting rocks, working on engines) were often taken on by the men of the crews. The designated Women’s Crew was a space for females to learn those same skills and apply them on their own. The hallmarks of a successful Women’s Crew, while similar to other crews, focuses on getting more women into leadership positions, which don’t have to necessarily be within ICC, but within any land management agency, or at whatever previous job they were in.

Due to the constraints of losing a fellow program coordinator before the launch of their summer crews, some of the goals of the Women’s Crew did not come to full fruition. For next year, however, they’d love to hire a female crew leader months in advance to set up relationships within the broader community and ask female leaders to conduct lessons or just discuss their professional journeys as women in the natural resources workforce.

During the interview process for potential crew members, a main question that was asked (and not asked for any of the other crews) was, “Do you have a very specific reason to enter this space?” The program coordinator was looking more for someone that had a specific experience of feeling uncomfortable in male-dominated spaces, someone that wanted to grow their technical skills, or someone looking to get into land management positions; and for the most part, those that reached out to her were those kinds of applicants.

The biggest struggle they encountered during their first run this summer was retention. The crew went through eight different members that quit, which resulted in only two members staying on. However, those two remaining members were promoted to leadership positions, which was truly at the heart of this new crew. There are a few speculations of why retention was a struggle this year, but the hope for next year is to restructure the experience from perhaps seeming like a summer camp to, instead, focusing on leadership building. Moving forward, ICC would like to have more input from members themselves on what specific skills they’d like to develop, and would also like resources on marketing this crew to a population that isn’t already in the corps world; because some their most solid corps members were previous bank tellers, and now they’re using chainsaws in the woods, which is awesome.


Now that I’m back in Eugene, OR, I’ll be conducting Northwest site visits throughout the fall term, so stay tuned! If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions related to my research, always feel free to reach me at jkatcher@uoregon.edu. Thank you for reading!

Photos of the Month - September 2017

Keep updating those Facebook photos! We'll collect some of our favorite photos posted on Corps social pages within the past month and post them on this blog. Here are some of our favorites from September 2017.




A
meriCorps NCCC


AmeriCorps NCCC



Knox County CAC AmeriCorps



Canyon Country Youth Corps



Canyon Country Youth Corps

 


American Conservation Experience (ACE) with Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke at Great Smoky Mountains National Park for NPS 101st Birthday (taken August 25) - courtesy of DOI
 


American Conservation Experience (ACE) with Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke at Great Smoky Mountains National Park for NPS 101st Birthday (taken August 25) - courtesy of DOI



Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa with Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and U.S. Rep. Billy Long (R-MO) at Wilson's Creek National Battlefield - courtesy of DOI
 


Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa and AmeriCorps NCCC with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan in Houston
 


Chairman Steve Daines (R-MT) and Ranking Member Mazie Hirono of the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks with John Leong, CEO of Kupu. Mr. Leong testified at a hearing on engaging the next, more diverse generation of park stewards and users.
 


Conservation Corps of the Forgotten Coast



Conservation Legacy



Conservation Legacy (AZCC)



EarthCorps



Greater Valley Conservation Corps



Greening Youth Foundation



Limitless Vistas, Inc.



Montana Conservation Corps



Nevada Conservation Corps



Rocky Mountain Youth Corps - NM



Rocky Mountain Youth Corps



Rocky Mountain Youth Corps



Southwest Conservation Corps



Utah Conservation Corps



Utah Conservation Corps



Utah Conservation Corps


 

Corps Recognize 9-11 National Day of Service and Remembrance 2017

September 11 is known as “Patriot Day” or the “National Day of Service and Remembrance.” It is a time when Americans honor the lives lost in the terrorist attacks of 2001 by coming together to volunteer and make our communities stronger.

Every day, young adults at America’s Corps engage in service to our communities and public lands. On September 11, Corps often coordinate neighborhood volunteer events or participate in emergency preparedness and resiliency trainings.  

Here are just a few ways member organizations of The Corps Network are recognizing the September 11 National Day of Service and Remembrance this year.

 

Maine Conservation Corps

More than 50 AmeriCorps members with Maine Conservation Corps will gather in Canann, ME to complete a short hiking path with two observation decks along the Carrabassett Stream. The year’s event stemmed from the wishes of Canaan citizens to build a trail in memory of Bill Townsend, a prominent lawyer and environmental advocate who passed away last December. 

Concurrently, other teams will upgrade trails at Lake George Regional Park as a thank you for hosting the Corps’ annual Summer Recognition Event.

Update 9/13/17: Click here for a report summarizing project outcomes from the day's event.

 

Texas Conservation Corps at American YouthWorks

In the morning, members of Texas Conservation Corps (TxCC) will join participants of American YouthWorks’ YouthBuild program for a moment of silence and a recitation of the AmeriCorps pledge.

Afterwards, members of TxCC and YouthBuild students will disperse to two projects: a park clean-up at Montopolis Greenbelt (which TxCC adopted through the Keep Austin Beautiful “Adopt-A-Creek” program), and a trail project in Austin’s Zilker Nature Preserve.

Meanwhile, TxCC currently has more than 20 AmeriCorps members participating in the Hurricane Harvey response effort.

 

Great Lakes Community Conservation Corps

In recognition of National Preparedness Month (September), AmeriCorps members with Great Lakes Community Conservation Corps (GLCCC) will participate in a functional training exercise as a capstone to their summer-long disaster response and emergency preparedness education classes.

Corpsmembers will respond to a scenario where a twin-engine aircraft crashes into a housing enclave. The members will perform search and rescue operations (incorporating drone flight and HAM radio operations), manage vehicular and pedestrian traffic, and staff a spontaneous volunteer management center adjacent to the Incident Command Center in the Town of Burlington, WI.

Read more about the project here. 

Update 9/13/17: Click here for a TV news report on the event

 

Southwest Conservation Corps

[From SCC Facebook page, following their 9/11 Day of Service and Remembrance event]

9/11 is a day of remembrance and acknowledgment to all of those we have lost and to those who have served our country. In honor of this our Veterans Fire Corps Crews and several staff members in Durango cut, split, and hauled fire wood for a couple local Veteran families in need.

We cannot thank our crews enough for volunteering their time today to help others. Big thanks also go out to the San Juan National Forest for donating fire wood permits as well as Ted's Rental and Sales, Grand Rental Station for the use of a log splitter.

 

Single Identity-Based Crews Research: Update from the Road No. 2

As part of her studies at the University of Oregon, graduate student Jordan Katcher plans to create a toolkit that provides resources for increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion (D,E,I) within Conservation Corps programming. To do this, Jordan hopes to combine academic research with insights from the field.

During the summer-fall of 2017, Jordan is traveling throughout the country to visit several Corps that operate identity-based programs (e.g. Veterans Crews, ASL Inclusion Crews, Native Youth Crews, LGBTQ Crews, All-Female Crews, etc.). She'll be conducting interviews and gathering information about innovative and effective practices. The Corps Network is hosting a blog where Jordan will share her experiences from the road.

 

By Jordan Katcher

Hello all! My name is Jordan Katcher and I am a current Community & Regional Planning graduate student at the University of Oregon. For my master’s degree, I’m focusing my research on increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion (D,E,I) within the outdoors. This summer, I’m traveling across the country, and conducting site visits with Conservation Corps that have implemented/are implementing single identity-based initiatives for underrepresented populations within the Conservation world. To read more about my research project, and to read about my upper Midwest site visits, check out my first blog post here.

For my second trip, I ventured through the Northeast region to conduct site visits with Maine Conservation Corps and Vermont Youth Conservation Corps. Below is a brief snapshot of my visits:

 

Visits in the Northeast:

Maine Conservation Corps (MCC) Site Visits – Augusta, Maine

Since I was taking a personal trip to Maine, I decided to visit Maine Conservation Corps to learn more about their opportunities for veterans. While MCC doesn’t currently have a single identity-based crew, I was interested to learn about their philosophy on an integrated model. For MCC, they believe that having diverse teams brings about new exposures, perspectives, and learning experiences for all members involved.

Throughout my visits, a reoccurring topic is the distinction and purpose behind both single identity-based crews and integrated crews: what are the benefits of either, and how do you choose which crew to implement? On top of that, individuals inhabit multiple identities at a time – all of which are on a spectrum – so how do you create program models that are inclusive of those multiple identities within a single crew?

For MCC, they’ve been working on ways to meet the mandate from AmeriCorps to provide opportunities for veterans to serve with Conservation Corps. Previously, MCC operated their Veteran Community Leader program, in which veterans came together for 11 weeks of training, and were then assigned to single-placement positions with a host site. After funding fell through, they transitioned to an integrated model with veterans serving with non-veterans on conservation crews.

MCC struggles with recruiting veterans. In part, this is because, while Maine has a higher veteran population, most of the state’s veterans are older. Additionally, MCC does not provide higher stipends for veterans. Because veterans serve on the same crew as non-veterans, it is difficult to justify paying them more for the same amount of work as their fellow crew members. However, MCC has found that they have a lot of success in recruitment when they have a veteran coordinator; someone who served in the military can better connect with potential applicants.

Resources that MCC would find useful to their organization include: (1) strategies they can implement to ensure that veterans who commit to serving actually begin their service, and (2) information about different program models, including best outcomes and funding resources.

 

Vermont Youth Conservation Corps (VYCC) Site Visits – Richmond, Vermont

Previously, Vermont Youth Conservation Corps had a crew for blind and visually impaired members. Recently, after a few serendipitous encounters with The Forest Service, Corps That, and the Lexington School & Center for the Deaf in New York, VYCC’s goal to provide opportunities for Deaf and Hard of Hearing members came to fruition. They launched their first crew last summer using an integrated model; their crew included both Deaf and hearing members. In the future, they’d love to see multiple American Sign Language (ASL) crews for different age groups, as well as provide both single identity-based and integrated crews.

Last summer, they had two crew leaders: one was Deaf and the other was hearing, and both leaders signed. This seemed like the ideal arrangement for their integrated model. This year, they were unable to recruit a Deaf crew leader, which became a struggle for this year’s crews. VYCC is constantly evaluating and redefining their program models and resources on a seasonal basis, and presently, they implement both Silent Meals and Silent Days, where all crew members can only communicate through ASL. This not only creates a more inclusive environment for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing crew members, but it also challenges hearing members and in turn, provides for new growth opportunities in how they communicate with one another.

For VYCC, they really want to invest in Deaf-specific education curriculum, not only for their crew members, but also for their entire organization. They do provide a workshop led by a Deaf instructor that teaches about Deaf culture, which has been a great asset to their crews.

What VYCC has found is that in terms of recruitment, making meaningful connections and relationships with Deaf schools, programs, and organizations is key. They originally cast a broad net for applicants, but they’ve realized when they put more filters on crew member positions, a smaller population arises that really wants the positions. For them, targeted outreach has been a challenge.

Funding is really at the heart of whether they can increase their resources or not; if they had the funds, VYCC would absolutely hire a Deaf/ASL-fluent field supervisor, which would increase their amount of applicants and strengthen their programming. Their partnership with The Forest Service provides traditional fee for service dollars, but not for developing curriculum, which is something they’d really like to invest in for the future.

If VYCC could change one thing from when they first implemented these ASL opportunities, they would have been more proactive about creating an inclusive workshop focused on Deaf culture for everyone, including their board members, their employees, and their crew leaders/members.

VYCC critically evaluates their opportunities for crew members and the intended outcomes of these experiences. For VYCC, the end goal is to not only empower crew members within their own identity group, but to help them know their identity within a larger, diversified setting.

Resources that would be beneficial to VYCC include: (1) funding resources for both Deaf and Hard of Hearing crew members, (2) greater opportunities for hearing students to strengthen their ASL skills for future employment as interpreters, and (3) increased sharing of resources related to developing new crews. 
 


Stay tuned for the last leg of my road trip adventures in September, where I’ll be venturing through the Southwest region! If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions related to my research, always feel free to reach me at jkatcher@uoregon.edu. Thank you for reading!

Corpsmember Profile: Breonnie King - Montgomery County Conservation Corps


 

Before finding her place at Montgomery County Conservation Corps (MCCC), twenty-one-year-old Breonnie King bounced between jobs in the food industry, retail, and health and wellness. As Bre describes it, she was “all over the place.” Without any prior experience in the environmental world, MCCC would have a huge impact on her.

Through MCCC’s GED program, Bre had a new outlook on life. In this program, youth and young adults can earn their GED while exploring green careers and learning conservation-related job skills. What attracted Bre the most to working in the environment was the idea she could create change and have a positive impact. As a participant in MCCC, Bre’s main goal was to earn her GED; she never expected to fall in love with the outdoors. As a child, Bre did not enjoy nature.

“Playing in the dirt and with bugs wasn’t my thing,” she said.

Because of her work, Bre views herself as an advocate for the outdoors and states her work (invasive species removal) at Dumbarton Oaks has opened her eyes to the impact a couple people can make overtime. However, as an African American woman, Bre has also experienced the role privilege can play in the outdoors.

“When I was younger, a lot of people kind of set out what I should be doing. ‘You can sing and you can dance and you can play sports,’” said Bre. “That’s where a lot of people put African Americans: in a box of what we care about and what is important to us. If it’s not in the music, or entertainment, or sports industry, we don’t have visibility.”

When Bre realized, the conservation field lacked people of color, it resonated with her. She is happy and proud to provide visibility for not only women, but African Americans. She recounts, “I love seeing the looks on people’s face when I’m on the job, it’s rewarding and empowering to see women who are certified in the field.”

Overtime, Bre’s love for the outdoors grew more and more; she enlisted family and friends to get outdoors more. As a Crew leader with MCCC she has enjoyed the opportunity to inspire young adults around her. Prior to her service, she never knew she could join environmental or conservation organizations, but she now has the confidence to put herself out there and pursue a career in this field. She believes MCCC has given her the know-how to tackle challenges effectively and efficiently.

“I can work in an industry where leaps and bounds can be made.”

During her time at the Corps, Bre enjoyed doing and seeing something new each day. From working on solar panels, to working with invasive plant removal, Bre woke up each day not knowing what would transpire.

Bre also received many certifications that she uses daily. She explains, “A biker was hit by a car right in front of me. Because of MCCC, I had the certification to know what to do in that situation. I could potentially save someone’s life.”

Currently, Bre has applications pending with the Student Conservation Association, programs listed on the Service Year Exchange, and AmeriCorps. There are so many things she wants to do. She states, “I just want to serve.”

With so many things on her plate, Bre also wants to attend to school to study International Relations. When asked about her dream job she states, “I don’t even know if there is a title for it. I love speaking, getting people involved, and doing a lot of outreach to people about green jobs and letting them know these things are out here. I don’t have a specific dream job. I like to do so much. I’m kind of a jack of all trades. That’s the beauty of this industry, you don’t have to stick to one field.”

She advises young people who are interested in this work to, “stick with it, don’t be afraid to try something new.” 

The Corps Network Responds to August 12 Events in Charlottesville

On March 25, 1965, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and a crowd of 25,000 marched from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in support of voting rights for African-Americans.

At the end of the march, King delivered what has since become known as the "How Long, Not Long" speech. Defiant at times, his remarks referenced the violence that beset the Civil Rights movement. He encouraged those gathered to keep up the struggle; the movement could not be dissuaded after coming so far.

How long? Not long, because no lie can live forever.

How long? Not long, you shall reap what you sow.

How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.

The recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia demonstrate that the struggle continues and reinforces that we cannot shy away from discussing the difficult issues that underlie this unfortunate incident, as well as so many other acts of racially-motivated violence.

The Corps Network recently introduced the “Moving Forward Initiative,” which focuses on addressing institutional and systemic racism as it relates to our Corps and the conservation workforce. Institutional racism was the focus of our recent workshop with The People’s Institute: an organization that teaches “what racism is, where it comes from, how it functions, why it persists and how it can be undone.”  What happened in Charlottesville shows us why understanding these concepts is so critical.

MENTOR, a national partner of The Corps Network, has published a guide, “Supporting Young People in the Wake of Violence and Trauma.” We suggest that Corps read and use this guide as we look for ways to talk to our Corpsmembers about recent events. We encourage all our Corps to have these conversations not only with your Corpsmembers, but also with your friends, family and partners. Know that we at The Corps Network are here to help.

When speaking to the US Conference of Mayors on August 11, 2017, President and CEO of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation La June Montgomery Tabron made this eloquent statement: “we do know that, when people come together, this work addressing structural racism, building equity in communities and shaping one’s humanity can be accomplished …We must succeed.”  

We will add to this by saying that this work by our Corps and The Corps Network must be done by joining with our partners and with our communities as we look to move forward.

As the Reverend Dr. King, Jr said, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”

Moving Forward Initiative: The African American Experience in the Civilian Conservation Corps


Picture from Forest Army blog
 

In 1933, at the peak of the Great Depression, the overall unemployment rate in the United States was well over 20 percent. African Americans were hit hardest, experiencing an unemployment rate two to three times that of white Americans. 

In these desperate times, President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC): a federal work relief program that, from 1933 until 1942, put 3 million unemployed young men to work building and restoring America’s natural resource infrastructure. In exchange for their labor, corpsmen received $1-per-day, regular meals, housing, and access to education. Though the CCC disbanded when the US entered World War II, its model lives on in more than 130 modern Corps across the country, most of which are managed by nonprofits or units of state or local government. 

The CCC was created with progressive intentions. With persuasion from Oscar DePriest, an Illinois representative and the only black member of Congress, the legislation that established the CCC included language forbidding discriminatory practices based on “race, color, or creed.”

Throughout the years of the program, more than 200,000 African Americans and 80,000 Native Americans served in the program. However, their experience was, in many cases, markedly different from that of their white peers. Under the argument that “segregation is not discrimination,” the CCC failed at its promise of inclusivity.

The CCC existed during the era of Jim Crow segregation. Though CCC camps were, at least in the beginning, supposed to be integrated, this largely only happened in areas where the African American population was not large enough to warrant a separate camp. To reduce community outcry, many of the 150 African American CCC camps were built on remote federal lands, away from the public.

In 1934, Robert Fechner, Director of the CCC, ordered the Army to review national practices around African American enrollment. Contradicting the Army’s conclusion that the CCC should not enforce segregation, as this would exacerbate the problem of finding locations for black-only camps, Fechner issued an order in 1935 to make the “complete segregation of colored and white enrollees” the rule.When questioned about this action by the NAACP, Fechner wrote.

“I am satisfied that the negro enrollees themselves prefer to be in companies composed exclusively of their own race…This segregation is not discrimination and cannot be so construed. The negro companies are assigned to the same types of work, have identical equipment, are served the same food, and have the same quarters as white enrollees.”


Picture from Digital Public Library of America
 

To appease citizens concerned about the placement of all-black camps in their communities, only white supervisors were put in charge of such camps, leaving black corpsmen little opportunity for advancement. President Roosevelt suggested this practice be relaxed to allow a few token “colored foremen,” and Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes was vehemently opposed to Fechner’s racist policies against having African Americans in leadership roles. However, pushback from communities and legislators, as well as Fechner’s beliefs and prevailing discriminatory practices meant that African American corpsmen generally did not have the same upward mobility as white corpsmen.

Meanwhile, Native Americans almost exclusively served on reservations in programs operated in collaboration with the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Critical infrastructure improvements were needed on reservations, and tribal leaders in fact had quite a bit of say in which projects were completed. There is limited literature on corpsmen from other non-white racial and ethnic groups participating in the CCC, but many Hispanic and Latino men certainly participated, especially in the American Southwest.*

African American enrollment in the CCC was capped at 10 percent, reflecting the racial profile of the national population, but this ignored the fact that African Americans faced disproportionately worse economic situations than white applicants. Despite the CCC’s founding language barring discrimination, qualified African American applicants were frequently turned away. When hired, they often faced hostile work environments. This included racial slurs and jokes, forcing black corpsmen to the back of the line, and giving them the least desirable quarters and equipment. Certainly reprehensible, these aggressions were unfortunately common in society at the time. However, there were more extreme cases of racism, including one account of an African American corpsmen being discharged from a camp in New Jersey for refusing to fan flies from a white officer.

CCC camps in some Southern states initially outright denied African Americans under the argument they were needed to tend fields. John de la Perriere, the Georgia director of the CCC, stated all applicants in Clarke County be “classed A, B and C” based on need. However, all non-white applicants fell into classes B and C and were far less likely to be recruited. In Florida, state director John C. Huskisson agreed, when pressured by the federal government, to "lower his standards" enough to accommodate two hundred black corpsmen.

Despite Fechner’s segregation order, some camps remained integrated, particularly in the North and in regions with smaller African American populations. Fechner allowed this “because of the natural adaptability of Negroes to serve as cooks.” In some integrated camps, African American corpsmen were indeed assigned kitchen duties as opposed to more technical work outdoors. Also, contrary to Fechner’s claims that African American camps completed the same projects as white camps, there are accounts that black camps in some regions only did routine work and were not assigned special or priority projects.


Picture from Oregon State University Special Collections and Archives.
 

Despite this, it is undeniable that African American corpsmen played a significant role in conservation efforts and the development of our nation’s public lands. Aspects of the CCC were certainly discriminatory, but, as stated by historian John Salmond in his book on the CCC, “to look at the place of the Negro in the CCC purely from the viewpoint of opportunities missed, or ideals compromised, is to neglect much of the positive achievement.”

Black corpsmen did ultimately gain much needed financial assistance through their service, and tens of thousands of African American corpsmen participated in educational programming from the elementary to college level. There are countless anecdotal reports from African American corpsmen who were grateful for the opportunity to learn and work in the CCC. 

To this day, however, the more than 200,000 black corpsmen of the CCC remain “hidden figures” in the development of our nation’s public lands. Most African American corpsmen were from cities where the forestry and conservation skills they learned in the CCC were not applicable. As Dr. Olen Cole, Jr. states, this work “must have seemed artificial and impractical- or at the very least, to have little relevance to their past and future lives.” Many CCC members went on to “negro jobs” as chauffeurs, cooks and gardeners. Many desirable public lands jobs were not, at the time, open to black men, or were more likely to go to white applicants.

As Cole states, the CCC had little lasting impression on the way African American corpsmen felt about the outdoors. It was merely a temporary way to make money, not prepare for a career.

“This failure, critical then, remains a failure of many environmental organizations today.”
 

 

*More to come on this topic – including the experience of Native American, Hispanic and Latino men in the CCC - in future blogs.

Please find a list of resources used for this blog on the Moving Forward Initiative homepage. 

 


For your Consideration:

As you read this blog, here some questions for you to consider: 

  1. What do the policies of the CCC tell us about how the federal government viewed racial discrimination at this time? 
     
  2. As some historians state, the CCC's work opportunities seemed irrelevant to African American corpsmen who mainly lived in urban centers. How might this relate to the problem public lands agencies face today with limited visitation from non-white populations?
     
  3. What can federal resource agencies do today to increase the presence of people of color visiting and working on public lands? 
     
  4. Read this firsthand account from Luther Wandall, an African American member of the CCC. What was positive and negative about his experience? How do his remarks make you feel? 
     
  5. For Corps: What measures have you taken (or can you take) to increase the presence of people of color in administrative or leadership roles in your organization? 
     
  6. For Corps: How do you conduct outreach in your community to people of color? Have your ideas been accepted? Do you believe the information you provide is culturally relevant?
     
  7. For Corps: Have your Corpsmembers ever experienced any racially-motivated hostility in the communities where they work?
    • How can this be combated? What conversations do you have with Corpsmembers in the event racism, hostility, or discrimination on the job occurs?

 


 

 

#CCCAnchor

Photos of the Month - July 2017

Keep updating those Facebook photos! We'll collect some of our favorite photos posted on Corps social pages within the past month and post them on this blog. Here are some of our favorites from July 2017.




American Conservation Experience



Ancestral Lands



Anchorage Park Foundation



Civicorps



EcoServants



Greater Valley Conservation Corps



Greencorps Chicago



Montgomery County Conservation Corps



Nevada Conservation Corps



PowerCorps PHL




St. Bernard Project



SEEDS



Southwest Conservation Corps



Utah Conservation Corps (ft. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell)


Vermont Youth Conservation Corps




Washington Conservation Corps

California Conservation Corps Veterans Fisheries Program


Corps play an essential role in helping preserve our waterways. In 2016 alone, Corps restored 2,551 miles of waterway.

We're recognizing California Conservation Corps' and NOAA for their Veterans Fishery Program. Learn about how this partnership expands opportunities for Veterans and helps improve aquatic habitats.



In partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries, California Conservation Corps (CCC) Veterans Corps began their fisheries program in 2012. The program started in Northern California with hopes to expand to Southern California by 2014. 

The goal of the program is to address two national priorities: 1) support and promote job opportunities for veterans; and 2) protect and restore endangered species. 

The Veterans Corps fisheries program is unique from other Veterans Corps in that it provides post-9/11 veterans opportunities to build their skills and gain work experience by restoring habitat for endangered salmon and steelhead. The Corps participants conduct research and monitor the species in their natural habitats. Many other Veterans Corps programs across the country focus primarily on forestry work and wilderness firefighting. 

Due to low funding and limited staff, NOAA Fisheries depends heavily on the CCC Veterans Corps to aid in salmon and steelhead recovery. Veterans are mentored by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission (PSMFC), the U.S. Forest Service, and local non-profits. Veterans and partners work on improvement projects identified by NOAA’s Fisheries’ salmon and steelhead recovery plans and gain knowledge about the complex needs of aquatic habitats. 

Since 2013, veterans have assisted with 133 restoration projects. Veterans constructed temporary fishways at the mouths of 20 tributaries, allowing threatened salmon access to cold water within the Klamath River; constructed off-channel habitats to provide crucial overwintering habitat for coho salmon; and deconstructed and modified fish passages to allow endangered southern California steelhead access to upstream spawning habitat. 

“Collectively, all the Veterans within this program have surveyed more than 423 miles of stream for juvenile fish and more than 2,122 miles of stream for spawning adult fish. They have also assessed 122 miles of stream habitat,” said Dana Howard, CCC Communications Director. “This monitoring helps guide future management and restoration decisions that will pave the way for species recovery.” 

Through the partnership between NOAA and the CCC, veterans receive on-the-ground training and have the chance to work side-by-side with fisheries biologists and experts. With this knowledge and experience, veterans have a stake in the competitive work pool and can find permanent employment in environmental and natural resource fields. 

NOAA and CCC credit veterans and the environment as “two of the nation’s most valuable resources.” Howard states, “By providing the training and skills necessary to pursue a career in the natural resources, this program helps young veterans transition to civilian life and continue serving our country in a way that also fills a critical need for improving our fisheries and watersheds…Veterans gain skills by developing real-world experience in natural resources fields encompassing fisheries biology, habitat restoration, project development, and many other areas. In addition, veterans in the program are eligible to receive college tuition and a $5,000 AmeriCorps education award.” 

The Veteran Corps is currently searching for funding and partners to continue sustaining the program, not only for the environment but for the veterans as well. Over a 10-year period, NOAA and CCC hope to 

establish secure funding for the program totaling $4.4M, or $440,000 per year, to employ 12 veterans annually. With this effort, placement sites would be at CCC centers throughout the state. 

NOAA and CCC have discussed expanding the program throughout California to areas including California’s Central Valley and the area between Mendocino County and Monterey County, as well as further south into southern California.

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