By Marc Hildesheim MARC @ NOHVCC.ORG
In 2016 after many years of collaboration with stakeholders, the Forest Service implemented a new chainsaw policy. This new policy was intended to make it easier for volunteers who perform trail work across the country to gain access to training, and to create a meaningful training that spoke directly to the type of cutting they do.
Part of the policy allows local volunteers to become certified “C” buckers, the highest possible proficiency level for this type of cutting. A bucker or bucking cut is the type of cut made when trees are on the ground across the trail, blocking access to trail users. A Sawyer Certified at the “A” level may operate a saw in the least complex situations and must be under the direct supervision of a B or C Sawyer. A Sawyer Certified at the “B” level may operate a saw in moderately complex situations.
Someone with a “C” bucking certification is able to evaluate sawyers in their community and provide them with the training they need to continue their trail work. A “C” bucker in the community could only evaluate “A” or “B” level buckers. The evaluation of the student and the recommendation for sawyer level is then sent on to the Forest Service Region Saw Coordinator who can then issue sawyer cards. This means that the volunteer is now free to go back to cutting based on their certification level. Plans and reality often diverge, and it has been a challenge for the Forest Service to provide training in the communities with the limited resources and staff at their disposal. In 2018 NOHVCC staff, including myself, decided to do their small part to help bridge the training gap. Our intention was to expand our training offerings and hopefully help a few clubs out with their training needs while we were in the area for a workshop or trail project. We had a few good leads and some plans for training starting to develop, and then enter 2020. Travel and meeting in groups has become a near impossibility. I had all but written off the possibility of doing any training this year when an opportunity arose due to my involvement with the Washington Off-Highway Vehicle Alliance (WOHVA).
Because I don’t get enough OHV throughout the day I serve as a board member for WOHVA. We were discussing how we would handle our annual meeting during the pandemic and what our plans for the future of the organization were and chainsaw training made it on the table. Not only did WOHVA want to help the clubs across the State receive necessary training, they also wanted to have a route to train the employees of their Heavy Maintenance Crew to properly operate chainsaws. We figured the first step was to get a training going. I contacted the Forest Service Region 6 coordinator to get the ok and then we set to cut some logs.
Three current board members and a cherished past board member and sage adviser met in Duvall, WA to participate in the training. We started the day with a brief classroom portion in a large room where we could social distance, and we learned about the mindset of the sawyer, safety procedure, and cutting complexities.
In the afternoon it was time to put the concepts to work in the field where luckily it was a mostly dry day. Yes, there are days in Western Washington when it doesn’t rain…. occasionally. We practiced some concepts talked about technique and then set about the actual evaluation portion of the class. Luckily for me I was working with an experienced group of sawyers who knew what they were doing, and the class went off without a hitch. Each course participant was recommended for a “B” level bucking certification. The participants in the class seemed to enjoy the class and made it known that they would like to work with the regional coordinator to get a few more “C” buckers in the organization to create more training capacity.
NOHVCC appreciates the partnership with WOHVA and the chance to provide this training. If you have saw training needs in your club, please reach out to NOHVCC at trailhead @ nohvcc.org. We will do our best to fill training needs or put you in touch with your local Forest Service saw coordinator.
To find out more about the US Forest Service Chainsaw Policy and training requirements please go to the Saw Policy page on the U.S. Forest Service website https://www.fs.usda.gov/about-agency/regulations-policies/saw-policy