Sitting around the campfire in the wilderness of Yosemite National Park, California Conservation Corps Director Bud Sheble had a captive audience.
Four state officials who play a part in overseeing his program relaxed under the stars and a full moon at a Conservation Corps camp seven miles south of Tuolumne Meadows. Earlier in the day, they had ridden in by horseback through the spectacular meadows and granite peaks of Yosemite’s back country.
Convening an evening meeting of the camp, Sheble talked optimistically of expanding the CCC and giving raises and scholarships to corps members. And the director called on his youthful crew members to tell their visitors what the CCC meant to them.
It was all part of lobbying in the High Sierra.
For two days this past weekend, Sheble and his staff had the chance to promote the CCC nonstop with Deukmejian Administration and legislative staff members.
They lobbied while riding their horses, hiking near camp, eating with crew members, sitting around the fire--and even lying in their sleeping bags.
It seemed to work.
“This whole trip is going to help me in a lot of ways,” said Marsha Johnson, assistant secretary of the Resources Agency, which oversees the CCC. “Actually getting out and talking to people, you get a better feeling for what is needed in a piece of legislation.”
The promotional visit to the camp near Booth Lake was the second this year for the CCC. Invited in addition to Johnson were two aides to Gov. George Deukmejian, a budget analyst for the Legislature and a reporter from The Times.
“I feel it’s important for other members of the Administration to see what we do firsthand,” Sheble explained. “It does subtly influence decisions that might happen down the road someday.”
Originally, the CCC was the pet project of Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr, who created it in 1976 as a program that would both employ young people and conserve the environment.
Open to men and women between the ages of 18 and 23, the CCC has 17 centers around the state where crew members fight fires, plant trees, clear brush, repair trails and render aid in natural disasters for the minimum wage of $3.35 an hour.
For six months of the year, the CCC also sends mobile crews into the back country of Yosemite and Sequoia national parks to carry out conservation work in cooperation with the National Park Service.
Under Brown and the CCC’s then-director B. T. Collins, the corps’ slogan became: “Hard work, low pay and miserable conditions.”
When Deukmejian took office in 1983, many outsiders expected him to reduce the size of the CCC, which had been so strongly identified with Brown.
Instead, the program has flourished under Deukmejian. The CCC has grown from 1,800 members to 2,200 during the last two years and Sheble talks hopefully of someday increasing its size to 3,000.
This summer, Deukmejian visited two CCC centers and praised the crews’ hard work. Earlier this month, the governor offered to send the CCC to aid Mexico in repairing damage from its catastrophic earthquakes.
“The governor is very strongly behind this program,” Sheble said. “We have a governor who really cares about young people and he cares about the environment. We put these two resources together with very impressive results.”
CCC officials also say the program is cost-effective, another plus for the budget-conscious governor. For each dollar the CCC spends, it produces $1.77 in benefits to the state, according to deputy CCC director Bob Moore.
Near the campground at Booth Lake, three 15-member CCC crews were attempting to complete the year’s trail reconstruction projects before the snow arrived.
Working with shovels and sledgehammers at an elevation of 10,000 feet, the corps members repaired deep ruts caused by horses and backpackers along heavily used trails.
In the most seriously damaged places, the crews were building sophisticated causeways to build trails above environmentally sensitive meadows.
Sheble, 46, met Deukmejian more than a decade ago while heading the YMCA’s model Legislature program and is one of the few Administration officials who refers to the governor as “George.”
Nevertheless, it doesn’t hurt Sheble to acquire a little insurance by promoting the CCC with members of the governor’s staff and other state officials.
Among the visitors last weekend were Art Scotland, Deukmejian’s cabinet secretary; Mitch Wilk, a special assistant to the governor, and Dan Durham, a member of the legislative analyst’s staff who reviews the CCC budget.
“The governor is very impressed with the program,” Scotland told the crew members around the campfire. “I’m very impressed.”
After the return trip by horseback to Tuolumne Meadows, Durham concluded, “From what I can tell, it looks like it’s money well spent.”