Sunday, April 26, 2015

Forest Service Chainsaw Class - Important Training Tool for Trail Volunteers

Mendocino NF Chainsaw Class and Instructors

Managing sustainable OHV and other recreation programs on federal lands is a complex challenge in the 21st Century.  Most successful programs have these common factors; appropriated funds, support from line-officers, dedicated recreation staff, supplemental monies from fee programs, state or other grants, and volunteers. 

QWR's Don Amador

For this article, QWR wants to focus on trail volunteers and their growing import in the aforementioned equation.   To bolster their volunteer workforce, the Mendocino National Forest recently held a chainsaw certification class for volunteers.

Blowdown on FS Motorcycle Trail

According to the agency, before Forest Service volunteers can operate a chain saw or a crosscut saw on a Forest Service project, they need to attend an official Forest Service training course on the safe and proper use of these saws.  The Forest Service has training courses specific to the use of saws for firefighting and for other purposes.  Usually, the Missoula Technology and Development Center (MTDC) course is the preferred crosscut and chainsaw class for non-fire personnel.   The operational and safety based training course for volunteers will help both experienced and inexperienced sawyers use chain saws and crosscut saws for limbing, bucking, brushing, and—to a limited degree—for felling smaller and less complex material.  Safety is the number one element emphasized in the chainsaw training.

Trail Crew Clearing Blowdown on FS 4wd, SxS, ATV, and MC Trail

The training is very comprehensive.  Topics include, but are not limited to: Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), area size up, proper body positioning and stance,  familiarity with OSHA requirements and regulations, physics of “binds”,  physics of “kickback”, sawyer/swamper communication, cutting area control, danger tree awareness,  job hazard analysis and emergency evacuation plans,  Forest Service radio communication, radio procedures and how to use a Forest Service radio;  parts of the chainsaw,  how to sharpen chainsaw chain,  and saw maintenance;   and of course the inclusion of safe chainsaw handling, starting and stopping procedures, use of escape routes,  and field practice with limbing and bucking practicum.

LINK to FS Chainsaw Course (with volunteer section)

Bill Aaron, a Region 5 chainsaw instructor who taught our class, states, “Trail volunteers are an important part of the Forest Service trails system.  Without their assistance the upkeep and maintenance would be much more difficult, and they are an integral key in the trails program.”

Chainsaw and Rack on QWR's DRZ400 Trail Maint. Bike

The Forest Service also states that volunteers who have completed saw training successfully are usually certified at the "A”  or “B” level. The level of certification indicates the types of saw work, along with any restrictions, that the volunteer can perform.  The "A" level is considered “apprentice” and the "B level is considered “intermediate” with restrictions limiting them to limbing, brushing, and bucking.

After training is complete, a line officer (usually the district ranger or unit manager) issues the volunteer's saw qualification card. Saw training and recertification is required every 3 years.

Don Amador, QWR President, states, “A skilled trail volunteer workforce is a force-multiplier and they not only help keep trail clear of trees and other vegetation, but their donated hours can be used as a match for grants from the California Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Division.  Volunteers continue to be an important factor in the land-management equation.”

Chainsaw Certification Card

“I considered it a privilege to have been part of this chainsaw class where safety and proper cutting techniques were emphasized.  Recent wildfires at popular OHV areas such as Stonyford on the Mendocino National Forest and Hull Creek on the Stanislaus National Forest highlight the need for a skilled volunteer workforce,” Amador concludes.

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1 comment:

  1. A volunteer on the Eldorado National Forest suggested that folks who want to get chainsaw certified to contact the Forest’s Recreation Officer as a place to start.

    They also mentioned the requirement of a valid CPR and First aid card is needed for the saw card to be issued. As well as only Forest Service approved saw chaps may be used (keeps people from buying them prior to a class and finding out they are not approved)