Sunday, November 10, 2013

The CCC in the Coronado National Forest of Southern Arizona: Forestry Work

"Spirit of CCC" showing the 
USFS logo and stylized image 
of CCC firefighters.
Courtesy CCC Legacy.
The CCC had several nicknames, including "Roosevelt's Tree Army" and "Tree Troopers." These nicknames are apt, as the men in this program worked hard and long in the nation's forests--fighting fires, thinning the forest, planting trees, and fighting tree diseases.

The men of the CCC worked for the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) in forestry camps designated by the letters "DF" (Department of Forestry) or "F" or "NF" (National Forest). The USFS was established in 1905 as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It manages public lands in national forests and grasslands. During the CCC era, each national forest had at least one CCC camp.

Across the county, the CCC boys spent an estimated 4.2 million man-days fighting forest fires. This was extremely difficult and dangerous work, requiring tremendous physical and emotional strength. My friend and colleague Mike Smith gathers information on the accidents and fatalities suffered by the CCC boys in their firefighting efforts. The boys also constructed fire lookouts and guard stations. They built trails and roads to allow firefighter access to forest areas; an estimated 97,000 miles of fire roads were built by the boys. 

Clearing trees in Rucker Canyon, Camp F-12.
Courtesy National Archives, Maryland.
The boys developed tree nurseries and planted an estimated nearly 3 billion trees.  In areas where it was needed, they cleared the forest of underbrush and dead wood to improve the health of the forest and reduce the chance of fires. 

Among the tree diseases they fought was twig blight, or matsucoccus vexillorum. The boys would climb into the trees to trim the branches infected by this disease. This was hard and perilous work, and many injuries resulted. By 1938, most eradication work ended. 

Camp F-63 in Patagonia. 
Courtesy Ernie Bruss. 
Here in Southern Arizona, the CCC boys labored in what is now the Coronado National Forest. (See the November 5, 2013, blog post for background information on the Coronado.) They thinned the forest, planted trees, built fire roads and trails, and erected fire lookouts.
Despite the fact that southern Arizona is in the Sonoran Desert, and that desert plays a large role in our ecosystem, our forests are a vital and large part of our environment. We owe a tremendous debt to these CCC boys for their efforts in improving and protecting the forests we enjoy today, and we have an obligation to continue their efforts to protect these fragile ecosystems.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The CCC Legacy Annual Gathering was held in Tucson the last weekend in October 2013. I gave a presentation at this event, but it was truncated because of time constraints, and I wasn’t able to show all the photos and tell all the stories I’d like. So, I'm going to post some of my info and photos on this blog instead.

I’m also going to rework the presentation a bit and eventually post it to I’ll post a notice when I do that.

As always, if you want more information or have information to share, please contact me!

A heartfelt thanks to Bill Gillespie of the Coronado National Forest who added to the information and photos I have collected on this topic.

Some background on the Coronado: The Coronado is huge—an area of about 1.78 million acres in five non-contiguous ranger districts in southern Arizona and New Mexico. The current composition of the Coronado results from the addition of formerly separate forests. The Coronado National Forest website has a good history of the evolution and development of the forest.

Map is from the USFS booklet, The Civilian Conservation Corps: Coronado National Forest, 1933-1942.

What Did the CCC Do in the Coronado?
The work projects of the CCC in the Coronado revolved around recreation, forests, rangeland, and water.

Recreational AreasThe CCC constructed recreational facilities throughout the Coronado. There’s a good chance that the picnic table you’ve eaten on, the road you’ve driven on, and the trail you’ve hiked in the Coronado was built or improved by the CCC.

They built and improved campgrounds, cabins, picnic areas, ranger stations, trails, roads, and bridges. They also strung telephone lines and stocked fish.

Forests: The CCC worked to improve the health of the forests. They thinned the timber stand, built roads for firefighting, constructed fire trails, and built guard stations and fire lookouts.

Rangeland: The CCC worked to improve the rangeland by building cattle guards and fences, revegetating the land, erecting stock tanks, building roads and truck trails, and eradicating poisonous plants.

WaterWater is a precious commodity, particularly in the desert of Arizona. The CCC worked to control and harness the water we get. They built dams, battled soil erosion, boxed in springs, and installed pipelines.

The Five Ranger Districts

The Santa Catalina Ranger District is near the city of Tucson and includes the Santa Catalina (including Sabino Canyon) and Rincon Mountains. This area was host to Camp F-42, Tanque Verde.

Camp F-42, Tanque Verde, enrollees working on the Redington Road. Courtesy National Archives.

The Safford Ranger District is situated near the city of Safford. It includes five mountain ranges: Pinaleño (including Mount Graham), Galiuro, Santa Teresa, Winchester, and Greasewood Mountains. The area was host to Camps F-14,   Treasure Park; F-15, Tripp Canyon; F-41, Noon Creek; F-46, Stockton Pass; and F-74, Columbine.

Picnic table built by Camp F-41, Noon Creek. Courtesy National Archives.

The Douglas Ranger District consists of 3 mountain ranges north and east of Douglas, AZ: Chiricahua (Chiricahua National Monument), Dragoon, and Peloncillo (which extend into New Mexico) Mountains. This area was host to Camps F-10, Cave Crerek; F-12, Rucker Canyon, F-47, Turkey Creek, and NM-2, Bonita Canyon.

Camp F-12, Rucker Canyon, working in the forests. Courtesy National Archives.

The Sierra Vista Ranger District includes three mountain ranges west of Sierra Vista, AZ: Huachuca, Patagonia, and Whetstone Mountains. This area was host to Camps F-13, Sunnyside; F-53, Ash Canyon; and F-63, Flux Canyon.

Camp F-13, Sunnyside, worked on the Canelo Ranger Station. Courtesy National Archives.

The Nogales Ranger District includes four mountain ranges north and west of Nogales, AZ: Santa Rita, Pajarito, Tumacacori, and San Luis Mountains. This area was host to Camps F-11, Box Canyon; F-30, Madera Canyon, and F-64, Peña Blanca.

Camp F-64, Peña Blanca, fence crew. Courtesy Merle Timblin (CCC enrollee and a friend!).

Fifth Annual CCC Recognition Day
March 29, 2014

The Fifth Annual CCC Recognition Day will be held Saturday, March 29, 2014, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Saguaro National Park West's Red Hills Visitor Center in west Tucson. The event will feature information tables, videos, photo displays, booksignings, presentations, and tours of the nearby CCC campsite.

The tentative presentation schedule includes talks on the CCC at what is now Saguaro National Park, the CCC in the Coronado National Forest, accidents and fatalities in the CCC, letters home from a CCC enrollee, the CCC camp newspapers, and stories of CCC enrollees as told by their children. The schedule of speakers and tablers will be available in January.

Contact me at with any questions or comments.