What is a Conservation Corps?


The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was formed in March of 1933 as one of the first programs of The New Deal. This public works program was intended to promote conservation of our natural resources and to build good citizens through disciplined outdoor labor. Close to the heart of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the CCC combined his interests in conservation and universal service for youth. The CCC is recognized as the single greatest conservation program in America and it served as a catalyst to develop the very tenets of modern conservation.

Accomplishments of the CCC were numerous: 3,470 fire towers erected, 97,000 miles of fire roads built, over three billion trees planted, erosion arrested on more than twenty million acres of land, plus amazing contributions in the development of recreational facilities in national, state, county, local, and metropolitan parks. Our local legacy is the stone observation tower built by the CCC in 1936 at the top of Mt. Constitution in Moran State Park on Orcas Island.

An excellent video on The Civilian Conservation Corps has been produced by PBS American Experience, and is available in local libraries.


Youth Conservation Corps of the San Juan Islands (YCCSJI)

The San Juan Islands are blessed to have three youth conservation corps operating on three islands – Lopez, Orcas, and San Juan.  In 2017, the three youth corps have merged under the administration of the San Juan Islands Conservation District.  The Madrona Institute will continue to provide financial support and program advice to the new Youth Conservation Corps of the San Juan Islands and looks forward to a long-term partnership.


YCCSJI San Juan Island Branch

The Madrona Institute operated the San Juan Island Conservation Corps (SJICC) as a youth stewardship program in partnership with San Juan Island National Historical Park since 2012.

The Stewardship Network of the San Juans served as a partner in the establishment of the program. The SJICC has been firmly established after five successful summer youth crew programs. Students in grades 7-9 from Friday Harbor Middle School and Spring Street International School participate in summer work programs emphasizing field science/natural history, service learning, and leadership skills training especially related to becoming lifelong earth stewards.

So far, over 80 students have contributed over 3,500 hours to the community and its public lands in beneficial restoration projects such as beach cleanup, enhancing Island Marble Butterfly habitat, and improving trails to access coveted island sites.


Want to see what it’s like to serve on the crew? Check out this fun video here.




YCCSJI Orcas Island Branch

In 2013, The Madrona Institute successfully launched the Orcas Island Youth Conservation Corps (OIYCC), a youth stewardship program modeled after the San Juan Island Conservation Corps and the Lopez Island Conservation Corps.

The Stewardship Network of the San Juans served as a partner in the establishment of this youth stewardship program too. Students aged 12-17 participate in OIYCC on a variety of projects that emphasize service on public lands, team building, environmental education, and care for the natural environment. OIYCC intends to build a program that teaches participants the value of community service along with the development of job skills.

In its first year of operation, we enlisted 14 enthusiastic students who provided a total of 713 hours of community service. In 2014, OIYCC expanded to 20 students with even more community service hours. Work ranges from trail building, to invasive species removal, to helping create a rain garden roof on the Village Green band shell.

OIYCC project partners include Moran State Park, the Bureau of Land Management, the San Juan Preservation Trust, the San Juan County Land Bank, Friends of the San Juans, the San Juan Islands Conservation District, and the Washington Trails Association.  Funding comes from project partners, the Orcas Island Community Foundation, and other local organizations and individuals.


YCCSJI Lopez Island Branch

Partnering with the San Juan Island Conservation Corps and the Orcas Island Youth Conservation Corps is the Lopez Island Conservation Corps (LICC) that was established in 2007 as a separate organization providing youth opportunities to participate in environmental conservation activities on Lopez Island.

LICC harnesses the power and enthusiasm of youth while engaging in sustainable community partnerships to encourage healthy choices, appreciation for nature, personal development, environmental education, and exposure to natural resource protection and careers.

The LICC vision: We personify a healthy, productive working environment in which LICC youth, participants and Board members are acknowledged and our successes are celebrated. In furthering LICC’s mission, we provide leadership and support to our community to achieve long lasting stewardship of our special public lands.

Consisting of individuals from 14-18 years old, and with the involvement of the local rural community, the youth benefits from positive teamwork and a collective sense of ownership of the land. The LICC serves as a nexus for local organizations to work together toward providing youth with opportunities to effect real change. Bringing together senior centers, food stores, county parks department, and the Bureau of Land Management, as well as local volunteers and families, LICC is not just motivating youth. It is rallying an entire rural community into finding value in a new organization that protects their local environment. The LICC demonstrates that even small groups of highly dedicated volunteers can make a huge impact.

LICC was named the Outstanding Youth Volunteer Group for 2008 by Take Pride in America, a national partnership program aimed at increasing volunteer service on America’s public lands.

The LICC youth summer program will resume in June 2017 and projects will include trail maintenance and construction, noxious weed removal, and habitat enhancement.


Coast Salish Stewardship Corps

In 2017, the Madrona Institute plans to launch a new summer youth program, the Coast Salish Stewardship Corps, for youth from Coast Salish Tribes in our region.  At present, partnerships are being sought with tribes and their representatives, as well as funding to support the program.  More news coning soon…


Other Conservation Corps

  • The Student Conservation Association (SCA) was founded in 1964 as an outgrowth of the successful Student Conservation Program begun in 1957 by the National Park Service in Grand Teton and Olympic National Parks to engage young people as park volunteers. Elizabeth Cushman Titus was the first President of SCA, now considered America’s conservation corps. SCA’s mission is to build the next generation of conservation leaders and inspire lifelong stewardship of our environment and communities by engaging young people in hands-on service to the land. Today, the SCA provides college and high school-aged members with hands-on conservation opportunities in many fields in all fifty states. The SCA maintains a regional office in Seattle. For more information about SCA, visit their website.
  • The Washington Conservation Corps (WCC) is a year-round program of the State of Washington that provides young people aged 18-25 with hands-on experience protecting and enhancing Washington’s natural resources. Trail building, restoration plantings, and biological monitoring are just a few of the tasks of WCC members who earn $9.19/hour and receive a $5,500 Americorps Education Award. Additionally, WCC members attend a series of trainings throughout the year, such as Wilderness First Responder, Wildland Firefighting, Hazardous Materials Response, Ethnobotany, and GIS/GPS. For more information about WCC, visit their website.
  • EarthCorps is a non-profit organization founded in 1993 with a mission to build a global community of leaders through local environmental service. EarthCorps provides a year-long intensive program for young adults from the U.S. and eighty other countries to learn best practices in community-based environmental restoration and to develop their leadership skills as they supervise more than 10,000 volunteers each year. EarthCorps believes that environmental service is a uniquely effective way to build community, and EarthCorps’s science team creates tools specifically to enable citizens to steward healthy ecosystems. For more information about EarthCorps, visit their website.
  • Northwest Youth Corps (NYC) is a non-profit organization founded in 1984 to offer teenagers an education-based work experience modeled after the historic Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s.  Today, NYC, based in Eugene, Oregon, serves over 1,000 teens each year across a five-state region.  For more information about Northwest Youth Corps, visit their website.