In May of 1941, Governor Charles Sprague called together 250 state leaders to form the Keep Oregon Green Association.

In addition to efforts targeting adults, businesses, and visitors, Richard Keuhner, the first director of Keep Oregon Green, sought to involve Oregon’s youth. As one of the top 4-H leaders in the state, Kuehner drew on his experience mentoring youth to develop the Oregon Green Guards in 1942.

The response was extraordinary. Over 30,000 youth signed up in the first three years, with mostly just word-of-mouth publicity. The youthful Green Guards earned awards and merit badges for removing hazardous fuels around their houses, farms, and outbuildings.

Modern Youth Programs

In 1987, the Oregon Youth Conservation Corps was established by the State of Oregon. This program was implemented through local community organizations that worked directly with disadvantaged and at-risk young adults. It focused on projects that maintained, protected, and conserved the valuable resources of the State of Oregon. In 2019, the program name was shortened to Oregon Youth Corps. This program continues to implement work-based learning experiences for youth all over the state. The objective is to ensure positive development and community stewardship while enhancing scenic beauty, public health, safety, and other important social benefits.

In 2021, the Oregon Conservation Corps (OCC) was established as a unique and specific effort to hire Oregonians between the ages of 16-26 to engage in hazardous fuels reduction work. The Oregon Conservation Corps helps meet current employment needs and, at the same time, the program develops skills in young people for future employment beyond their time on an OCC crew. Corps-members work in teams with their peers to reduce wildfire risk to lands within the Wildland Urban Interface throughout Oregon.

Today’s Model

While their work echoes the call of the Oregon Green Guards, today’s youth programs are carefully coordinated in their communities with the help of various fire agencies like the Oregon Department of Forestry, the Oregon State Fire Marshal, and other local fire protection associations.

These young Oregonians need your assistance. Your influence. Your humble conversations with friends, family, and co-workers. Tell them about the Oregon Conservation Corps, and consider making a tax-deductible donation. Every dollar raised will help keep this program going.

Together, we can keep Oregon green!