The CCCs and the north country forests
I’m sure most folks have seen the rows and rows of evergreens on our state forests. Probably you’ve also driven on the fire roads in the state forests. Most likely these are the works of the CCC, the Civilian Conservation Corps. This was started in 1933, as the country was in the throes of the great depression. It was a public works program, stemming from FDR’s new deal. It employed young single men ages 17-28. These men stayed in camps, and were fed and clothed- the pay was $30 a month and they had a 40 hour work week. $25 of this was sent home to the worker’s families, $5 was given to the worker. The pay calculates to around $550 by today’s standards. There was a voluntary education program, and teachers taught many subjects- and even taught basic literacy skills to many that couldn’t read previous to joining.
The camps consisted of 200 men, and they were signed up for six months at a time. The camps were supervised by the U.S. Army. FDR believed strongly in the importance of unskilled labor, and also in the value of the outdoors. The main legacy of this program was the forest that we still enjoy today. Idle farm land was purchased and converted to productive forest. Many forests were logged and reforested by the CCC. Fire roads were constructed, and water holes built to curb the threat of wild fires that had burned thousands of acres in the prior years. Estimates run as high as 3 billion trees planted nationwide. They also constructed many of the camp sites that we use today. Fish stocking was another part of their work. The program lasted until 1942, when the man power was needed for the armed services of World War 2.
In the New York State, the CCCs maintained 60 camps. Locally there were camps located at Benson Mines/Wanakena, Pierrepont, Canton, Harrisville, Brasher, Tupper Lake, and Brushton. A good example of the work the CCCs performed can be seen at the Taylor Creek State Forest in Pierrepont NY. According the D.E.C.’S webpage, 1,031,000 evergreen trees were planted on 747 acres. Seven water holes for fire-fighting were constructed, several still remain today. (http://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/82471.html) The Pierrepont camp (S-134) was located on Powers road, north of the Glenmeal State Forest. So, when you drive past one of these many forests, stop to think about the enormous amount of work these young men put in to create the forests we enjoy today.