Learning More About Ourselves Through the CCC

 Today’s post is an alumni piece written by former Fortuna Corpsmember Steven Jeffares.


Conservation can mean more than the attempts to keep certain plant and animal species, as well as ecosystems, alive.  The subtle lesson often ignored which should be quite apparent points to conservation in helping us see if we really have the will to secure or change our environment, or even the world in general.  People often see this as an over-generalization, or even a false hope, so they can confine themselves to their own misguidedness, but the more that we treat the world better, the more we are comfortable with ourselves and are willing to accept ourselves as humans.

I was often pressured by an older sibling who had previous positive experiences within the California Conservation Corps to join the CCC even well before I was old enough to join.  I often thought of it as a social challenge to me, therefore was very against the idea.  I feel maybe some others have had this dilemma.  Other people might be on the fence in deciding whether to join the California Conservation Corps to pursue some kind of self-strengthening or whether to dismiss it entirely as “just another job”.

I was not someone who had an easy life with a vast fortune of wealth or happiness just given to me.  Like many of you, I’ve had many problems to deal with on my own. I’ve had to grapple with reality in terms of what I wanted to do in life and what others had wanted me to do.

Such concepts are very necessary to survival in this world, and it is a forgotten will to live that keeps us sane. Rather, I have never known such a drive to keep going existed.  I went in the CCC thinking of it as another job; you wake up, eat breakfast then make lunch and go to work.  Well, at least when I went in it seemed to be just another job.  Until…

Until I found myself doing things I have never even imagined of doing.  I am not going to lie—some of these things may have seemed mundane or tedious at the time, but what I know now has encouraged me as a human being and as one who cares about the world around me.  Again, not easy at times…

However, I ended up joining the California Conservation Corps not really knowing what was going to happen.  A week of classes passes by fast, and before you know it, you’re out on what is referred to as ‘the grade’. On the grade, you are asked to perform numerous tasks, including a lot of work with trails, invasive species, and within the region I was stationed also helped to restore salmon habitats through rebuilding log structures in creeks.  On the way, I made many friends and superiors that I deeply appreciated.  My C-1 (the BOSS) helped me through various emotional challenges that were presented throughout my job.  Sometimes I saw it as being pushed into a mentality, but then I’d soon learn after that these lessons were sometimes the best way to deal with certain events that would pop up through future jobs and experiences.

As for the actual work, as I have mentioned before, I performed various tasks.  I had to remove invasive species from the environment.  In my northern California area, this pertained to Ammophila Arenaria (A.K.A. European Dune Grass) and Hedera Helix (A.K.A. English Ivy) mostly, though I also was instructed to eradicate other plants such as Cortaderia Selloana, commonly known as Pampas Grass.  During the summer I was also asked to trade the comfort of my apartment for two weeks for Fire Camp Support in Anderson.  This began a very emotional high tide for me, and I swam back way stronger.  Nobody was fired from our crew, and we received a very positive review for our efforts while aiding California Department of Forestry and Fire.  Also, we were asked to thin out forests of certain tree species that would encroach on not-as-rapidly growing trees and performed “Fuel Reduction”, which assisted in preventing fires from spreading to areas where people worked or lived.

One of the more exciting duties I had performed in the CCC was Salmon Restoration.  I loved it.  Never had I actually felt like I was a part of a mechanism to help something other than myself or my friends.  I had truly enjoyed watching those baby salmon swim as hard as they could as I grinded away trying to move Redwood logs into the creeks to create shelter and to help “scour” dirt away; thus creating cooler water for the salmon.  This, and removing Ammophila for the Snowy Plovers, created a strong will in me to look past myself.  Even writing this, it’s hard not to cry.  I believe this had a huge impact on my life and how I began to view myself as a living thing, with factors as any other.

Another great aspect, and this is something I’ve heard is a common task within the distinct regions of the CCC, is trail work.  It’s the job that everyone always talks about.  Everything is involved with this: Grubbing, Hedging, Pruning, and Chainsaws.  It always seemed to me a lot of people wished for these jobs, and during my time I was very honored to get to be able to work with National Park Service, who encouraged me to further pursue a job working on trails.  Unfortunately in my case I have sustained various tears and fractures to my ankles and my feet and am unable to perform that work anymore, at least until this gets better. It should be noted that none of these were work related, and the C.C.C. was compliant with allowing time off for me to recover, and my C-1 was very understanding of these injuries and would not push me past my limits.  I would heavily encourage that work, because trust me, it is much, much better than a lot of jobs you could be working.

Keeping our local environment can mean more than attempting to keep certain species and ecosystems alive.  As we live, change, and grow, I suggest that we all keep this in mind.  I may have not been able to continue with this type of work due to injuries, but I always encourage others to do so.  If I didn’t have these, you bet I’d be working with trails or preserving the nature around us.  However, even if you are injured, there are other options.  I, for one, had volunteered for the wildlife center for Humboldt County and felt it just as rewarding as the Conservation Corps.  I was not asked to do much physical labor, though I did do some out of my own will.  You can always find something to help yourself and the people around you, let alone the world.  I think the main point is:  with programs like the CCC, we’re going beyond ourselves.


Steven Jeffares

Corpsmember of 2014-2015



And More

Today’s post was written by former Corpsmember Jonathan Kirchabel of Fortuna Center. Jonathan has written a more contemplative piece than a typical Corpsmember profile. Jonathan shows us what goes into the development of a Crewleader in the CCC. 



Jonathan, left. Ethan Smith, right

I don’t know how many times I sat and asked myself, “How much longer am I capable doing this?”

It didn’t happen a lot. It was most memorable during long conversations between the silence and myself. I would say absolutely nothing, and the nature would respond in the same manner. While working, spiking out on a project, and especially during my time in Yosemite, it didn’t matter where I went, this conversation would still follow.

When people ask me about my experience, I never know the right answer; only the wrong ones. As a leader in the program, I came to understand that you never want to discourage somebody from doing something just because it’s daunting or hard. You want to be real, honest, and tell people like it is, but you never want to discourage somebody. The program changed me, especially during those long conversations between nature and myself. I can remember finding joy after long tumultuous hikes during my backcountry season and while working to maintain trails around the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, and having conversations with the nearby birds as they sent calls between each other. You know, because I went crazy, and that’s a heavy burden to bear.

There’s a certain peace that happens after two years, after doing what I’ve done, and after seeing what I’ve seen. There were two nights in particular that truly resonated with what I intend on getting across: the night that I laid in water for hours, and the night that I didn’t sleep, while in Yosemite.



The night I laid in cold water for hours was a treacherous reminder of why you should not be lazy. On a clear evening, we went to sleep thinking that we did not need to set up any tarps for coverage during the night. We were awoken by steadily dropping rain that only increased into a small storm. Luckily, Jose had swung his tarp over us, and shielded us from most of the barrage. However, I had not cared to bring any extra possible defense against the conditions for the weekend, and as a result my sleeping bag, clothes, and body, were all drenched in water for hours and hours. Jose had been positioned as perfectly as possible, and despite needing to go to the bathroom for several hours, I resisted all urges and uncomfortability until the storm passed four hours later. I sat, shivering in my rain gear, my only dryish clothes, and attempted several times to light a fire with wet materials. Had I not temporarily stopped smoking cigarettes a month prior on my birthday, I would have found solace in those seconds of slowly decaying away with each puff while silently staring into the river beside our campsite. Yet, I only had the river as comfort, as I sat for hours more, waiting for my comrades to wake up. Cuts on my feet, still shivering, and sore from the compilation of all that had happened up until then, I still found more serenity with each step forward back to camp, weight on my shoulders and all.

Continue reading “And More”

Corpsmember Profile: Dyana McPherson

My name Dyana McPherson, I was born and raised in San Diego County. I have always been an avid camper and hiker since I was a child. I was dissatisfied with my occupation at the time and I had friends at the La Cima fire center. I was encouraged by then Corpsmember Development Coordinator Victor Avila to join the CCC and see if I liked the work. My love of Redwood country inspired me chose the Humboldt district when I enrolled in the CCC in 1993, I ended up at the Fortuna Center as a corpsmember. At the time I wanted to attend college to go into the natural resources field. Working for the Salmon Restoration Project seemed like just the ticket. My ultimate goal even at enrolling in the CCC was to become a C-I and start a meaningful career.

After COMET I was assigned to Crew 3, Tom Merrill’s crew. I was one of four females at the entire center and only two of us were on the grade. I loved it. I learned everything I could and Tom saw potential in me and sent me to leadership training right away. I was a red hat within three months of joining. I eventually transferred to the Leggett / Ukiah center there I Interned for California Department of Fish and Game and was on Gary Burica’s crew. A position for an orange hat in Fortuna opened up and I was asked to apply. I returned to Fortuna and worked with the Corpsmember Development program (CMD) under Bill Vogel and Terry Stevens until I left in 1995. Corpsmember Development provides educational activities and training for the corpsmembers during their time in the CCC. Corpsmembers are required to attend a two week new employee orientation program called COMET. There are several requirements for obtaining the CCC scholarship at the end of your term. CMD provides these classes at night for the corpsmembers and many other educational opportunities. I really enjoyed being an orange hat for the COMET program that I decided I wanted to be a teacher and work for Corpsmember Development.



Dyana and Bud Wilbur. Bud was in the original Civilian Conservation Corps.

I took the Conservationist-I (C-I) exam and headed back to San Diego hoping to pick up a C-I position. I ran crews for three years with the CCC, working on conservation projects, Floods, Fires, Special Programs (Weatherization Energy Efficiency Retrofit Program) and COMET.


I got married in 1999 and returned to Northern California to live and work for CA Parks and Recreation. For a few years then a family member needed our help so we moved to Arizona. For eight years I lived in Kingman AZ, where I stayed home with my young children and attended Northern Arizona University’s college of Education. I enjoyed being a mom and spending time with my family. I graduated with my Bachelors of Science from NAU in Elementary Education. I still stayed in touch with my CCC roots and began a CCC Alumni Face book page. I volunteered to be the Admin and let folks know about things that go on with the current CCC and provide a place to connect former corpsmembers with their friends.

I had an opportunity to apply for a Program Coordinator position with a sister corps in Flagstaff called Coconino Rural Environment Corps (CREC). The program was funded from the Recovery Act. I was the program coordinator Energy Conservation Corps program/ County Retrofit Program Coordinator. I had anywhere from 3-5 crews at a given time. We worked on a variety of energy efficiency projects in Northern Arizona, mostly on the Navajo Reservation. One of the more memorable projects was with the Grand Canyon National Park; it took the crew to the bottom of the Grand Canyon retrofitting a building built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, and restoring five structures at the North Rim. Visiting the crews working at these sites was a memorable experience.
I now live in San Diego and I work for the State of California again raising my girls. I am looking forward to visiting current CCC crews and writing about their projects and experiences.

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