ARIZONA—This summer, 10 Youth Conservation Corps crew members, accompanied by two crew leads from the Student Conservation Association, settled into Rucker Administrative Site on the Douglas Ranger District, Coronado National Forest, to learn about and engage in the broad arena of forest management.
While two in the group were “locals” from Douglas, Arizona, the remainder of the crew came from across the country.
Although participants thought they were signing on for a hitch of trail work, district staff divided the six-week engagement into time spent with various functional areas including fire, forestry, heritage, range, recreation, wilderness/trails and wildlife. Crew members spent up to a week in each program area, interacting in educational and field work sessions intended to immerse them in forest ecology and land management.
Among their many accomplishments were stabilization and maintenance work at Camp Rucker historic site, which served as an 1800s U.S. Army post and later a working ranch. Firewise protection, replacement of eroded adobe bricks, and repair of stockade-style fences and other historic features were critical to long-term preservation of the site.
Participants learned the “sky island” concept as they observed ecological zones at various elevations—elevation changes that correspond to those encountered when traveling from Mexico to Canada. They also studied plant and animal species within each zone.
Trips to the Chiricahua Desert Museum and American Museum of Natural History’s Southwestern Research Station afforded opportunities to deepen knowledge of ecology and research being conducted in the area.
In addition to learning and accomplishment, the experience led to developing friendships and support among crew members. Upon departing, new perspectives on land management and public service were accompanied by personal relationships between each other and the land.
Nestled in the Chiricahua Mountains of southeastern Arizona, Rucker provided rustic but comfortable living quarters for the group’s down time when not out in the field. With a kitchen, multiple sleeping rooms, indoor restrooms with showers, and areas for meeting, lounging and dining, it served well as a base camp for the group, and allowed them to live in the environment where they worked and learned.