The first to lend a hand in saving a life or shaping one, the Association of Conservationist Employees (ACE) performs a public service unique among state governments anywhere.
The men and women of ACE train and supervise at-risk youths who come to the California Conservation Corps (CCC) looking for a better path to start out on in life. These ACE-trained 18- to 25-year-olds who are seeking guidance and direction in their lives are given a chance at developing skills and building self-esteem in some of the most life-threatening and back-breaking ways possible.
The CCC has become one of the most important components in the state’s disaster response efforts. ACE members, and the young adults they supervise, assist in fire prevention and fire fighting, cleaning oil spills, flood prevention efforts, and joining in flood and earthquake relief efforts. When not pitching in with disasters, ACE members and their students also cut brush, thin forests, and reduce fuel loads. Some of the most satisfying work the CCC does is restore trails and bridges in state parks and make those scenic vistas accessible to the handicapped, as well.
Many a firefighter look fondly upon a CCC truck when it rolls up, since they, too, received a head start in their careers from the conservation corps. Not all CCC graduates go on to related fields; some even find their artistic side while in the corps, such as the rapper Coolio.
The California Conservation Corps is the oldest conservation corps in the world. For many, the CCC was considered a crown jewel of government and a model for other states to follow for its wise use of tax money to give at-risk kids a hand-up in life while using their labor to assist in the conservation of the state’s natural resources.
Conservationists are some of the longest-lasting employees in state government, putting in 15 to 30 years of service. The store of knowledge the members of ACE have is one of California’s greatest intellectual assets.