Member Profile

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We are trying a new addition to our home page with periodic member profiles.  This month:  Poudre Wilderness Volunteers

Poudre Wilderness Volunteers help protect four designated wilderness areas — Rawah, Comanche Peak, Neota, and Cache la Poudre — and many multi-use wild areas along the northern end of the Colorado Front Range.  We patrol primarily on the watersheds of the Cache la Poudre (Wild and Scenic) River and the Big Thompson River, extending a protected region from the northern edge of Rocky Mountain National Park nearly to the Wyoming border.


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Heart of the Gila

NWSA plans to use this space to profile many of the wilderness stewardship groups around the country.  This month we start with Heart of the Gila.

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The idea for a nationwide network of wilderness volunteer organizations was hatched right here in Colorado, barely a decade ago. The catalyst was a small group of wilderness devotees, including this month's author Dave Cantrell. Today the mission of NWSA remains catalysis, as Dave writes, "
connecting stewardship organizations with each other, linking our efforts and experiences, directing groups to resources, and fostering new organizations." At their recent meeting in Bend, Oregon, 250 attendees from 29 states, representing 80 different organizations gathered to pursue that mission with a rich assortment of speakers and activities. Read more below about how NWSA knits together the fabric of volunteer non-profit organizations, including us, into a wilderness preservation network. 

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Forest Service Webinars

The Forest Service has announced several new webinars to educate employees and volunteers on several of the Wilderness Stewardship Performance elements.

From the FS:

The Wilderness Information Management Steering Team is pleased to announce they will be hosting the next in a series of short training webinars for the Wilderness Stewardship Performance (WSP) elements.  The next webinar will cover two WSP elements, Agency Management Actions and Motorized Equipment/Mechanical Transport Use Authorization.

All webinars will be recorded and posted on the Wilderness Stewardship Performance SharePoint site, so live attendance will not be required.  The recordings will also be posted on to allow our partners, who assist us with wilderness stewardship, an opportunity to receive the training as well.  Partners are also more than welcome to attend the live webinar.

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National Wilderness Stewardship Alliance announces 2018 – 19 Webinar Series.

The National Wilderness Stewardship Alliance is ready to share some knowledge accumulated over the past decade about the non-profit world is general and the wilderness stewardship universe specifically. NWSA has scheduled a series of webinars designed to help stewardship organizations to operate more efficiently in the office as well as on-the-ground methodology. NWSA's free webinars will keep you apprised of funding opportunities, policy changes and ways to strengthen and build your stewardship group.

On Tuesday, December 18 at 11:00 a.m. Mountain Time, Darcy Shepard will lead off with a webinar on Managing Finances — Best Practices.

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New national saw policy changes the way sawyers look and learn

Creating smart sawyers is the goal of the new paradigm in USFS crosscut and chainsaw certification.

By Sandy Compton, NWSA board member.


FSPW trail crew uses a crosscut saw to clear blowdown from 
new construction of a portion of Trail #65 in the proposed 
Scotchman Peaks Wilderness in Idaho


Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness is one many organizations nationwide that partner with the Forest Service in stewardship of public lands, including weed abatement, stream bank restoration, white bark pine restoration and most notably, trail maintenance and construction. As a Forest Service partner, I was a recent beneficiary of the first Region One Wilderness Skills Institute, at Powell Ranger Station on the Lochsa River. During the Institute training, volunteer partners — as well as Forest Service personnel — learned a method of saw training that is part of the Forest Service’s new national saw policy.

Without getting into the weeds about OSHA requirements and the bureaucratic underpinnings of government agencies, the saw policy adopted in 2016 by the Forest Service is revolutionary. After decades of different Regional requirements — at one time a Region One C sawyer might have to undergo recertification to saw in Region Four — the USFS has a manual that applies to chainsaw and crosscut saw operators nationwide. They also have a new method of certifying sawyers. And, they are certifying partner volunteers.

Saw operators come in several varieties. An “A” sawyer is a raw trainee. “B” sawyers are generally certified to do ground work (bucking) and a very limited amount of felling. “C” sawyers are certified to buck, fell and train “A” and “B” sawyers. A “C” Certifier tops the skill set, with the ability to train as well as certify all levels of sawyers.

As land management agencies suffer from reduced budgets, they naturally struggle to get their jobs done. Nowhere is this more apparent than on the National Trail System, most of which is managed by the Forest Service. Where once dozens of seasonal employees might show up each summer on a Ranger District to work on trails, trail crews have shrunk to 4 or 5. Districts are having to accept that some trails are just not going to get annual attention. This is frustrating for the agency and especially frustrating for outdoor recreationists who use those trails.

It follows that place-based volunteer organizations like FSPW are becoming important to Forest Service goals of maintaining and building trails. Where once volunteers were viewed with a cautious eye and required to work under direct supervision of Forest Service personnel, more and more trail work is being undertaken by self-supervised volunteer crews, or crews organized and supervised by staff from organizations like FSPW, the Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation or the Selway-Bitterroot Frank Church Foundation.

As part of the saw policy revolution, the Forest Service is not only training and certifying volunteer sawyers, they are certifying volunteers and NGO staff to be trainers and certifiers as well.

Possibly the most profound change in policy is the method sawyers now use to determine how to fell a tree or clear a blow-down mess. In the new training, the emphasis has moved from rote memorization to an emphasis on creating smart sawyers who rely more on situational analysis than on rules and regulations.

During the Wilderness Skills Institute, cross-cut sawyers from the FS and their partners were introduced to OHLEC, a method for determining how to safely proceed when removing a hazard tree or a blow down mess from a trail.

Newbie sawyers Corey and Jake from Montana Conservation Corps — neither of whom had even seen a crosscut saw before — learn the finer points of underbucking. 


OHLEC is an acronym for five stages of a saw project; whether it be felling, bucking, limbing or brushing. The stages are as follows:

O: Determine the Objective, be it hazard tree removal — where the tree is to fall — or safely clearing a segment of trail of blow-down.

H: Determine Hazards that might be encountered in reaching the Objective. Widow-makers, power-lines, tripping hazards, buildings, nearby roads and trails, human presence and myriad other things might be considered Hazards.

L: Which way and how much does the tree Lean? Or, in the case of downed trees, what forces will affect the behavior of the tree and the saw when it’s cut. Sawyers use a plumb-bob to determine front or back Lean and side Lean of a standing tree, and then determine what adjustments have to be made to achieve the Objective. Similarly, blow-down is studied to determine how a single tree might react if cut in a certain way, or, if it’s part of a larger mess, how it will affect the rest of the pile.

E: Escape routes are created in advance, cleared of tripping hazards and providing as sawyers protection by distance or obstacles between the potential hazard and the sawyers.

C: The Cut plan is the crux of all other planning. The introduction of basic math into the process makes it a simpler to fell a tree. Through simple formulas, the direction of fall, depth of face cut, amount of hinge wood and the stump shot are determined before the saw enters the wood. In the case of blow down, top, side and bottom bind are determined and the Cut plan reflects the physics involved in the release of those forces during the cutting. A brushing or limbing project will include swamping plans — where is the slash going to go.

This is a simplified version of OHLEC, but real training — which moves out of the classroom and into the field much more quickly than the old training — is not much more complicated that this basic explanation. Training also spends time on the “zen of crosscut,” matching the sawyer’s body placement and movement to the saw and their partner for the best effect.

Through the new policy, work in the field has been made safer and more efficient. And, training for new sawyers and those wanting to moved to a higher certification has been greatly simplified. In the initial classroom session at Powell, body language in the room changed dramatically as a cadre of seasoned Forest Service and volunteer sawyers— many of them C-level — recognized that their next certification session was going to be a.) easier, b.) more effective and c.) more fun — whether they were certifying someone else or being recertified.

Sandy Compton is Program Coordinator for FSPW. He achieved “C” Certifier status for crosscut at the Institute. FSPW crews use crosscut saws to clear trails in the proposed Scotchman Peaks Wilderness.


Internship Programs

Each year wilderness stewardship programs around the country offer internships for individuals to experience working in wilderness.  These programs are transformative, not only for the work that is accomplished, but for the effect they have on the participants.  This year the Indian Peaks Wilderness Alliance sponsored two interns...learn more about their story...

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Threat to Wilderness

There is a new threat to the National Wilderness Stewardship Preservation system currently working its way through Congress.  Read more...

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Gas Geyser

With the heat of summer increasing hazards also increase.  One such hazard is gas geysering from overheated chain saw gas tanks.  A number of accidents have occurred this past year that could be prevented with simple precautions.  

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National Forest Trail Grants

Competition was fierce for the first ever National Forest System Trail Stewardship Grants.  90 organizations submitted applications, worth more than $1,000,000 for the limited funding of $230,000.  A total of 23 organizations are to receive the first cycle of these grants.  Read more about the Trail Grants....

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