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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Monday, April 20, 2015

Amateur Off-Road Events are Educational Opportunities

Youth at Tech Station
2015 Shasta Dam GP

Amateur off-road events are great family-oriented venues where competitors challenge their skills on designated OHV trails.  In addition, they can provide an important real-time in-the-field educational opportunity for professional advocates, volunteers, club members, and land managers to share new management concepts, review trail maintenance and restoration projects, and practice enforcement of OHV-related rules and regulations.

Recently, QWR had the privilege to help with tech services at the AMA National Shasta Dam Grand Prix held at the BLM’s Chappie-Shasta OHV Area near Redding, California.   Hosted by the Redding Dirt Riders, this event afforded us chance to help educate riders - young and old alike - about riding with current vehicle registration, sound compliant exhaust, and U.S. Forest Service approved spark arresters.

QWR Riding with BLM Staff on Trail Review
Chappie-Shasta OHV Area

Before and after the event, QWR was able to tour a number of recent and proposed trail and restoration projects with BLM recreation and fire/fuels staff.  This was a great opportunity to see how the use of modern trail management techniques are used to address water quality and soil erosion.  In addition, it was important to see how fire/fuel reduction projects might help reduce the intensity of a wildfire.

BLM's, Sky Zaffarono, at Current Trail Maintenance Project
Chappie-Shasta OHV Area 

This last weekend, QWR was at Round One of the AMA Sanctioned SRT D36 Northern California Championship Enduro Series.  The 61st Annual Sawmill Brand Q Enduro was hosted by the North Bay Motorcycle Club. 

Sara Mathews, the Outdoor Recreation Planner for the BLM’s Ukiah Field Office, was on hand to help oversee the event and to practice the field-level application/enforcement of California’s OHV regulations related to spark arresters, registration, and sound compliant exhaust.   QWR, RDR, and BLM were also able to tour trail and restoration projects.

BLM's, Sara Mathews, Checking Spark Arrester
Cow Mountain National Recreation Area

Trail Armor on Climbing Turn
Cow Mountain National Recreation Area

The 2015 Sawmill Enduro was held at the BLM’s Cow Mountain National Recreation Area (NRA) near Ukiah, California. This NRA was designated by Congress specifically for OHV use in 2006.

The ever growing number of retiring BLM and Forest Service recreation staff and line-officers who are experienced with managing OHV recreation is problematic.  QWR believes a lot of corporate knowledge is being lost.  Additionally, said retirements have even a greater impact on OHV because those personal and professional relationships that have been developed over the last 20-30 years are lost as well.  

QWR believes it is incumbent on the OHV community to make sure that relationships are cultivated with new federal and state recreation staff and leadership.  It is not just enough to ask for a meeting at the district office.  While those meetings are important, it is even more critical that you ask for agency staff to meet you in the field to review issues, ideas, and solutions.

Often times, new agency staff are not familiar with OHV recreation and in some cases have never taken a ride in a 4WD, ATV, dirt-bike, or SxS.  At that introductory meeting in the office, try and schedule a time when you can meet recreation staff in the field or at an event.  There is no substitute for taking a ride together in a SxS or other OHV and discussing trail and resource management from that close perspective.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Proudly Display Your "E-Ticket" OHV Registration Decal

QWR believes that registering your off-highway motorcycle (and other OHVs) and properly displaying your state’s particular vehicle identification decal in the required manner in an important part of managed OHV recreation in the 21st Century. 

Modern OHV recreation management is a complex formula that includes appropriated monies for trail construction/maintenance, dedicated recreation staff, volunteerism, grant funding, support from line officers, resource protection, conservation efforts, restoration projects, safeguarding cultural sites, use of sound compliant exhaust with spark arresters, appropriate levels of law enforcement, and proper placement of OHV-related vehicle identification decals.

In California, the state OHV decal is called a “green or red sticker.”  The CA Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Division (OHMVRD) states that for [off-road] motorcycles  the decal shall be placed on the left fork leg, horizontal or vertical, visible from the left.


Over the years, QWR has seen CA green/red stickers placed behind front number plates, inside the airbox cover, on the frame, under the seat, or inside a side cover.  

Proper placement of your OHV identification decal helps the sport in a number of ways.  It shows other riders that you value high-quality OHV recreation and the ongoing efforts by agency staff and private sector advocates to keep trails open.  Following decal placement instructions also shows law enforcement officials that you have paid your “E-Ticket” to enjoy managed OHV recreation on public lands. 

Please take time to read the placement instructions that should accompany your new registration decal.  We know that often you are in a hurry to get out and ride, but taking a few extra minutes to place your decal in the appropriate location will help ensure that OHV recreation has a bright future.

*ROVs/SxSs are not specifically mentioned in CA law but sticker placement should mimic other four wheeled vehicles.