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.

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