Arizona Conservation Corps crew members camp in the Nature Conservancy’s Patagonia-Sonoita Preserve. They were in the area in March to perform land stewardship work. Photo by Robert Gay

On March 1, just before the last snow in Patagonia, a multicolored field of about 40 tents blossomed at The Nature Conservancy (TNC)’s Patagonia-Sonoita Preserve. They were an encampment of crew members of the Arizona Conservation Corps (AZCC), one of seven U.S. programs managed by Conservation Legacy, under AmeriCorps. The group frequently partners with the U.S. Forest Service and the Arizona Trail Association.

The Conservation Legacy’s eight programs in the U.S. consciously continue the traditions of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Along with the Works Progress Administration (WPA}  the CCC had been active in the Patagonia Area from 1933-1942, from a base camp at the mouth of Flux Canyon. 

Blending community service and land stewardship, AZCC recruits a diversity of crew members, mostly 18-30, including veterans of military service and younger members who are often in a “gap year,” between high school and college. 

AZCC Projects are rooted in hands-on work, learning skills with pick and shovel, chainsaws and jackhammers, for instance. The Corps provides transportation, equipment and protective gear, camp kitchens and sometimes, porta-potties. Work sites are generally in National Forests, wilderness, or conservation areas.

Land stewardship learning occurs via projects like trail maintenance, fence repair, invasive species removal and wildfire response. While in Patagonia, the Arizona Conservation Corps members did all three. They improved the TNC’s Geoffrey Platts Trail, got rid of some riparian area invasives, and helped clear “ladder fuels” in the north end of the TNC property that borders residences along Costello Drive. It’s part of a town-wide effort to implement Fire-wise provisions, a growing issue in many Western towns. 

Ten days after arriving, the “hitch”—as the AZCC calls a project—was done. The campers pulled up tent stakes and, following the “leave no trace” ethic, returned the meadow to the deer, turkeys, mountain lions and birders.

For more information, visit