Conservation Corps Minnesota traces its roots to the 1930s. The Civilian Conservation Corps, at that time a federal program, was created to provide natural-resource jobs to unemployed young men supporting their families during the Great Depression. In the 1970s, the federal government launched the summer Youth Conservation Corps and the year-round Young Adult Conservation Corps, continuing the employment of young people in productive conservation work. In 1974, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) began administering conservation corps programs in the state.
Federal support for these programs ended in 1981. That year, the Minnesota Legislature designated some DNR appropriations for the "youth conservation corps." See Laws of Minnesota 1981, chapter 356, article 1, section 25. The legislature continued to do so over the next few years; in 1989 the legislature formally established the Minnesota Conservation Corps within and under the supervision of the DNR. See Laws of Minnesota 1989, chapter 335, article 1, section 70.
In 2003, management of the Minnesota Conservation Corps was moved from the DNR to the Friends of the Minnesota Conservation Corps, a non-profit started in 1999. See Laws of Minnesota 2003, chapter 128, article 1, section 35. That law also stipulated that "the expenditure of state funds by Conservation Corps Minnesota is subject to audit by the legislative auditor and regular annual report to the legislature in general and specifically to the house of representatives and senate committees with jurisdiction over environment and natural resources policy and finance."
In January 2010, the Minnesota Conservation Corps (MCC) changed its name and logo to Conservation Corps Minnesota. The Corps' work and presence reaches into surrounding states, such as Iowa (with Conservation Corps Iowa district offices in Ames), Wisconsin, Upper Michigan, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota.
According to the Corps' 2016 MMB budget summary, "Conservation Corps Minnesota has a diverse funding base. Fee-for-service funds more than 55 percent of program costs and is the primary revenue source in the young adult programs, along with government grants. Youth programs also derive revenue from fee-for-service, but rely more heavily on private and government grants. Fee-for-service partners include federal, state, local and nonprofit partners and related service activities. Clean Water, Land and Legacy funds support nearly 20 percent of program costs through partnerships with different agencies."