History Timeline

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Conservation Corps traces its roots to the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as a federal work relief program to provide natural resource jobs to unemployed young men so they could support their families during the Great Depression. In exchange for their labor, participants received a $1-per-day wage, regular meals, housing, and access to education. The CCC members drastically improved America’s public lands, planting billions of trees, constructing campsites, building thousands of miles of trails and roads, and undertaking other endeavors to develop our park systems. While the CCC officially disbanded in 1942 when the U.S. entered World War II, the concept lived on in the nation’s heart.

Segregation and the CCC

The unfortunate reality is that the CCC took shape under Jim Crow laws and reflected the institutional racism that dominated the era. African Americans faced open hostility and racism at the hands of their white peers and supervisors, and they were often left with the worst tools, tasks, and quarters.

While there are few records to draw on regarding non-black people of color populations in the CCC, it’s certain that crews also included many Latino and Hispanic members in the Southwest. The Native Americans who served with the CCC worked mainly on reservations supporting projects determined by the Bureau of Indian Affairs in cooperation with tribal leaders. Millions of young men served terms of 6-18 months to help build the nation’s National Parks, revitalize the economy, and support their families and themselves

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Later, in the 1970s, the federal government launched the summer Youth Conservation Corps and the year-round Young Adult Conservation Corps, continuing the employment of young people in productive conservation work.

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When federal support for conservation corps ended in 1981, the Minnesota Conservation Corps was created by the Minnesota Legislature to offer youth and young adult programs through the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

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In 1999, the Friends of the Minnesota Conservation Corps was incorporated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization by community supporters and program alumni, and the nonprofit assumed operations of Minnesota Conservation Corps in 2003.

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In January 2010, Minnesota Conservation Corps (MCC) changed its name and logo to Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa, to be consistent with the brand established in 2009 when we launched Conservation Corps Iowa. The new Iowa program began offering service-learning opportunities to young adults in central Iowa.

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Present Day

While our presence continues to grow in surrounding states such as Wisconsin, Upper Michigan, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota, our goals of engaging youth and young adults in meaningful service, leadership development, and environmental stewardship remain the same. We continue our proud legacy of restoring natural resources and changing lives.

Past Programs

Restoring Relations Youth Corps

Restoring Relations Youth Corps connected American Indian youth to their heritage through hands-on environmental projects on lands and waters of cultural and historic significance. The program sought to instill local indigenous values and culture, primarily Dakota and Ojibwe, into all activities. This initiative was developed in partnership with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Forest Service, Center School, and AmeriCorps. Crews operated in summers of 2017 & 2018.

Bridges Project

The Bridges Project was an extension of Youth Outdoors providing the next step for teenagers interested in a career in the environmental field. Youth crews worked alongside professionals and scientists to gain in-depth experiences and advanced training in natural resource management, ecology, science, technology, environmental conservation, and Minnesota natural and cultural history.

Conservation Apprentice Academy

From 2011-2018, Conservation Apprentices spent their summer serving alongside natural resource professionals in a Minnesota Soil and Water Conservation District learning hands-on skills in managing soil and water resources. The Apprentice Academy was supported through funds appropriated by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund, as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR).

Home Energy Squads

AmeriCorps members in the Home Energy Squad were trained on the job as they completed energy-efficiency upgrades in Twin Cities homes working with Neighborhood Energy Connection (NEC) staff. Support to expand programming originally stemmed from funds available through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009. The program operated from 2009-2016.

Superior National Forest “Faces of Tomorrow” Crews

From 2014-2018, Conservation Corps worked with Superior National Forest’s “Faces of Tomorrow” Initiative to support seasonal crews in northern Minnesota. The initiative was part of the National Forest’s effort to improve the diversity of its future workforce. Support to expand programming originally stemmed from funds available through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009.


Adopt-a-River was created to empower Minnesotans as stewards and ambassadors of the state’s public waters. Managed by the Minnesota DNR until 2016, the program focused on engaging citizens in private clean-ups of our state’s surface waters. CCMI ran the program from 2016-2019 until the program transitioned to the current ownership, Freshwater. Since 1989, this program has supported over 3,200 cleanups that have engaged over 90,000 volunteers in 300,000 hours of service to watershed areas throughout the state.